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J Neurochem. 2004 Mar;88(6):1398-405.

Dopamine neurons in culture express VGLUT2 explaining their capacity to release glutamate at synapses in addition to dopamine.

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Department of Pharmacology, Centre for Research in Neurological Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal, Quebec, Canada.


Dopamine neurons have been suggested to use glutamate as a cotransmitter. To identify the basis of such a phenotype, we have examined the expression of the three recently identified vesicular glutamate transporters (VGLUT1-3) in postnatal rat dopamine neurons in culture. We found that the majority of isolated dopamine neurons express VGLUT2, but not VGLUT1 or 3. In comparison, serotonin neurons express only VGLUT3. Single-cell RT-PCR experiments confirmed the presence of VGLUT2 mRNA in dopamine neurons. Arguing for phenotypic heterogeneity among axon terminals, we find that only a proportion of terminals established by dopamine neurons are VGLUT2-positive. Taken together, our results provide a basis for the ability of dopamine neurons to release glutamate as a cotransmitter. A detailed analysis of the conditions under which DA neurons gain or loose a glutamatergic phenotype may provide novel insight into pathophysiological processes that underlie diseases such as schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease and drug dependence.

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