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FASEB J. 2012 May;26(5):1921-33. doi: 10.1096/fj.11-196113. Epub 2012 Jan 20.

Epitope-tagged dopamine transporter knock-in mice reveal rapid endocytic trafficking and filopodia targeting of the transporter in dopaminergic axons.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, S368 Biomedical Science Tower South, 3500 Terrace St., Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


The plasma membrane dopamine (DA) transporter (DAT) is essential for reuptake of extracellular DA. DAT function in heterologous cells is regulated by subcellular targeting, endocytosis, and intracellular trafficking, but the mechanisms regulating neuronal DAT remain poorly understood. Hence, we generated a knock-in mouse expressing a hemagglutinin (HA)-epitope-tagged DAT to study endogenous transporter trafficking. Introduction of the HA tag into the second extracellular loop of mouse DAT did not perturb its expression level, distribution pattern, or substrate uptake kinetics. Live-cell fluorescence microscopy imaging using fluorescently labeled HA-specific antibody and a quantitative HA-antibody endocytosis assay demonstrated that in axons HA-DAT was primarily located in the plasma membrane and internalized mostly in growth cones and varicosities, where synaptic vesicle markers were also concentrated. Formation of varicosities was frequently preceded or accompanied by highly dynamic filopodia-like membrane protrusions. Remarkably, HA-DAT often concentrated at the tips of these filopodia. This pool of HA-DATs exhibited low lateral membrane mobility. Thus, DAT-containing filopodia may be involved in synaptogenesis in developing DA neurons. Treatment of neurons with amphetamine increased mobility of filopodial HA-DAT and accelerated HA-DAT endocytosis in axons, suggesting that chronic amphetamine may interfere with DA synapse development. Interestingly, phorbol esters did not accelerate endocytosis of axonal DAT.

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