Neuroanatomical distribution of CXCR4 in adult rat brain and its localization in cholinergic and dopaminergic neurons

Eur J Neurosci. 2002 Nov;16(9):1661-71. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.2002.02237.x.


Accumulating evidence supports a role of chemokines and their receptors in brain function. Up to now scarce evidence has been given of the neuroanatomical distribution of chemokine receptors. Although it is widely accepted that chemokine receptors are present on glial cells, especially in pathological conditions, it remains unclear whether they are constitutively present in normal rat brain and whether neurons have the potential to express such chemokine receptors. CXCR4, a G protein-coupled receptor for the chemokine stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1/CXCL12) was reported to have possible implications in brain development and AIDS-related dementia. By dual immunohistochemistry on brain sections, we clearly demonstrate that CXCR4 is constitutively expressed in adult rat brain, in glial cells (astrocytes, microglia but not oligodendrocytes) as well as in neurons. Neuronal expression of CXCR4 is mainly found in cerebral cortex, caudate putamen, globus pallidus, substantia innominata, supraoptic and paraventricular hypothalamic nuclei, ventromedial thalamic nucleus and substantia nigra. Using confocal microscopy, a differential distribution of CXCR4 in neuronal perikarya and dendrites can be observed according to the brain structure. Furthermore, this work demonstrates for the first time the coexistence of a chemokine receptor with classical neurotransmitters. A localization of CXCR4 is thus observed in neuronal cell bodies expressing choline acetyltransferase-immunoreactivity in the caudate putamen and substantia innominata, as well as in tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta. In conclusion, the constitutive neuronal CXCR4 expression suggests that SDF-1/CXCL12 could be involved in neuronal communication and possibly linked up with cholinergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission and related disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Fibers / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Chemokines, CXC / metabolism*
  • Cholinergic Fibers / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Chemokine*


  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Chemokines, CXC
  • Cxcr4 protein, rat
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • Receptors, Chemokine