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Mol Med. 2001 Mar;7(3):186-92.

In vivo gene transfer to dopamine neurons of rat substantia nigra via the high-affinity neurotensin receptor.

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Departamento de Biología Celular, Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional de México, Mexico.



Recently, we synthesized a nonviral gene vector capable of transfecting cell lines taking advantage of neurotensin (NT) internalization. The vector is NT cross-linked with poly-L-lysine, to which a plasmid DNA was bound to form a complex (NT-polyplex). Nigral dopamine neurons are able to internalize NT, thus representing a target for gene transfer via NT-polyplex. This hypothesis was tested here using reporter genes encoding green fluorescent protein or chloramphenicol acetyl transferase.


NT-polyplex was injected into the substantia nigra. Double immunofluorescence labeling was used to reveal the cell type involved in the propidium iodide-labeled polyplex internalization and reporter gene expression.


Polyplex internalization was observed within dopamine neurons but not within glial cells, and was prevented by both hypertonic sucrose solution and SR-48692, a selective nonpeptide antagonist of NT receptors. Reporter gene expression was observed in dopamine neurons from 48 hr up to 15 days after NT-polyplex injection, and was prevented by SR-48692. However, no expression was seen when the NT-polyplex was injected into the ansiform lobule of the cerebellum, which contains low- but not high-affinity NT receptors. Neither internalization nor expression was observed in cultured glial cells, despite the NT-polyplex binding to those cells that was prevented by levocabastine, a low-affinity NT receptor antagonist.


These results suggest that high-affinity NT receptors mediate the uptake of NT-polyplex with the subsequent reporter gene expression in vivo. NT polyfection may be used to transfer genes of physiologic interest to nigrostriatal dopamine neurons, and to produce transgenic animal models of dopamine-related diseases.

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