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J Biol Chem. 2010 Jan 15;285(3):1957-66. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.054510. Epub 2009 Nov 10.

A biochemical and functional protein complex involving dopamine synthesis and transport into synaptic vesicles.

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Department of Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


Synaptic transmission depends on neurotransmitter pools stored within vesicles that undergo regulated exocytosis. In the brain, the vesicular monoamine transporter-2 (VMAT(2)) is responsible for the loading of dopamine (DA) and other monoamines into synaptic vesicles. Prior to storage within vesicles, DA synthesis occurs at the synaptic terminal in a two-step enzymatic process. First, the rate-limiting enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) converts tyrosine to di-OH-phenylalanine. Aromatic amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) then converts di-OH-phenylalanine into DA. Here, we provide evidence that VMAT(2) physically and functionally interacts with the enzymes responsible for DA synthesis. In rat striata, TH and AADC co-immunoprecipitate with VMAT(2), whereas in PC 12 cells, TH co-immunoprecipitates with the closely related VMAT(1) and with overexpressed VMAT(2). GST pull-down assays further identified three cytosolic domains of VMAT(2) involved in the interaction with TH and AADC. Furthermore, in vitro binding assays demonstrated that TH directly interacts with VMAT(2). Additionally, using fractionation and immunoisolation approaches, we demonstrate that TH and AADC associate with VMAT(2)-containing synaptic vesicles from rat brain. These vesicles exhibited specific TH activity. Finally, the coupling between synthesis and transport of DA into vesicles was impaired in the presence of fragments involved in the VMAT(2)/TH/AADC interaction. Taken together, our results indicate that DA synthesis can occur at the synaptic vesicle membrane, where it is physically and functionally coupled to VMAT(2)-mediated transport into vesicles.

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