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Anal Chem. 1998 Aug 1;70(15):3123-30.

Voltammetric and pharmacological characterization of dopamine release from single exocytotic events at rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells.

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Department of Chemistry, Pennsylvania State University 16802, USA.


Although rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) neurotransmitter storage vesicles are known to contain a variety of neurotransmitters including catecholamines, there is little evidence that the molecular species detected during amperometric monitoring of exocytosis is a catecholamine. Rather, as these are catecholamine-containing cells, one assumes catecholamines are released. Additionally, although the total amount of transmitter released can be quantified, it has been extremely difficult to evaluate the concentration at the point of release for each exocytosis event. Interpreting voltammograms obtained in the attoliter volume affected between the electrode and the cell and defined by the size of the exocytosis pore during exocytosis is an extreme analytical challenge. Here we use voltammetry of approximately 10(-19) mol released from individual exocytosis events to identify, along with pharmacological evidence, the released compound at PC12 cells as a catecholamine, most likely dopamine. The area of the electrode at which oxidation occurs following an exocytosis event is proportional to the temporal delay prior to acquisition of a voltammogram. This model allows determination of relative concentrations from individual release events and has been used to examine events at control cells and cells incubated with the dopamine precursor, L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA). Exposure to L-DOPA (100 microM for 1 h) results in 145 detectable events for 11 cells compared to 77 events for 29 control cells, clearly indicating that vesicles can be "loaded" with dopamine. However, the concentrations measured at the electrode surface provide similar distributions for both L-DOPA-treated and control cells. Cyclic voltammetric measurements of relative concentration for zeptomole levels of transmitter in attoliter volumes provide evidence that loading vesicles by increased transmitter synthesis does not lead to elevated concentrations at individual release sites.

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