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Dev Biol. 2000 Apr 1;220(1):85-96.

Norepinephrine transporter expression in cholinergic sympathetic neurons: differential regulation of membrane and vesicular transporters.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon 97201-3098, USA.


Sympathetic neurons that undergo a noradrenergic to cholinergic change in phenotype provide a useful model system to examine the developmental regulation of proteins required to synthesize, store, or remove a particular neurotransmitter. This type of change occurs in the sympathetic sweat gland innervation during development and can be induced in cultured sympathetic neurons by extracts of sweat gland-containing footpads or by leukemia inhibitory factor. Sympathetic neurons initially produce norepinephrine (NE) and contain the vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2), which packages NE into vesicles, and the norepinephrine transporter (NET), which removes NE from the synaptic cleft to terminate signaling. We have used a variety of biochemical and molecular techniques to test whether VMAT2 and NET levels decrease in sympathetic neurons which stop producing NE and make acetylcholine. In cultured sympathetic neurons, NET protein and mRNA decreased during the switch to a cholinergic phenotype but VMAT2 mRNA and protein did not decline. NET immunoreactivity disappeared from the developing sweat gland innervation in vivo as it acquired cholinergic properties. Surprisingly, NET simultaneously appeared in sweat gland myoepithelial cells. The presence of NET in myoepithelial cells did not require sympathetic innervation. VMAT2 levels did not decrease as the sweat gland innervation became cholinergic, indicating that NE synthesis and vesicular packaging are not coupled in this system. Thus, production of NE and the transporters required for noradrenergic transmission are not coordinately regulated during cholinergic development.

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