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J Comp Neurol. 1995 Aug 21;359(2):340-9.

Dopamine transporter immunoreactivity in rat brain.

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Molecular Neurobiology Branch, National Institutes on Drug Abuse, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


The dopamine transporter (DAT) is a primary site for the action of cocaine in inducing euphoria. Its action is necessary for the selectivities of dopaminergic neurotoxins that provide the best current experimental models of Parkinson's disease. In the present report, rat dopamine transporter-like immunoreactivity (iDAT) was assessed by immunohistochemistry using newly developed polyclonal antisera raised against conjugated peptides corresponding to sequences found in the dopamine transporter's carboxy- and amino-termini. Dense iDAT was observed in patterns consistent with neural processes and terminals in the striatum, nucleus accumbens, olfactory tubercle, nigrostriatal bundle, and lateral habenula. Perikarya in the substantia nigra pars compacta were immunostained with moderate intensity using one of two immunohistochemical methods, while scattered ventral tegmental area perikarya were stained with somewhat less intensity. Immunoreactive neuronal processes with axonal and dendritic morphologies were stained in the substantia nigra and the paranigral and parabrachialis pigmentosus nuclei of the ventral tegmental area, while sparser processes were noted more medially in the ventral tegmental area. Neuronal processes were found in several laminae in the cingulate cortex, with notable fiber densities in the superficial aspects of lamina I and laminae II/III. The intensities of immunoreactivities in striatum and cerebral cortex were dramatically attenuated ipsilateral to nigrostriatal bundle 6-hydroxydopamine lesions. Specificity of immunostaining was supported by agreement of the results using sera directed against two distinct DAT segments, studies with preimmune and preadsorbed sera and studies of the extracted protein. These antisera identify and reveal details of the distribution of DAT immunoreactivity in rat brain and display variations in levels of DAT expression of likely functional significance.

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