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J Neurosci Res. 2004 Jan 15;75(2):194-202.

Subpopulations of rat dorsal root ganglion neurons express active vesicular acetylcholine transporter.

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Dipartimento Biologia Cellulare e dello Sviluppo, Università "La Sapienza," Rome, Italy.


The vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) is a transmembrane protein required, in cholinergic neurons, for selective storage of acetylcholine into synaptic vesicles. Although dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons utilize neuropeptides and amino acids for neurotransmission, we have previously demonstrated the presence of a cholinergic system. To investigate whether, in sensory neurons, the vesicular accumulation of acetylcholine relies on the same mechanisms active in classical cholinergic neurons, we investigated VAChT presence, subcellular distribution, and activity. RT-PCR and Western blot analysis demonstrated the presence of VAChT mRNA and protein product in DRG neurons and in the striatum and cortex, used as positive controls. Moreover, in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry showed VAChT staining located mainly in the medium/large-sized subpopulation of the sensory neurons. A few small neurons were also faintly labeled by immunocytochemistry. In the electron microscope, immunolabeling was associated with vesicle-like elements distributed in the neuronal cytoplasm and in both myelinated and unmyelinated intraganglionic nerve fibers. Finally, [(3)H]acetylcholine active transport, evaluated either in the presence or in the absence of ATP, also demonstrated that, as previously reported, the uptake of acetylcholine by VAChT is ATP dependent. This study suggests that DRG neurons not only are able to synthesize and degrade ACh and to convey cholinergic stimuli but also are capable of accumulating and, possibly, releasing acetylcholine by the same mechanism used by the better known cholinergic neurons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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