Dopamine, vesicular transporters and dopamine receptor expression and localization in rat thymus and spleen

J Neuroimmunol. 2009 Jan 3;206(1-2):5-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2008.09.018. Epub 2008 Nov 13.


The localization of dopamine stores and the expression and localization of vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT) type-1 and 2 and of dopamine D1-like and D2-like receptor subtypes were investigated in rat thymus and spleen by immunohistochemical, immunochemical techniques and by RT-PCR. In the thymus dopamine immunoreactivity was developed in the cortico-medullary junction and in the medulla, but not in the thymic cortex. In the spleen, dopamine stores were found in reticular structures in the white pulp border and in the white pulp, but not in the red one. Both thymus and spleen expressed VMAT-1 and VMAT-2 immunoreactivity as well as dopamine D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5 receptor immunoreactivity. Immunohistochemistry revealed VMAT-1, VMAT-2 and dopamine D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5 receptor immunoreactivity primarily in the thymic cortical-medulla transitional zone and to a lesser extent in the medulla but not in the cortex. In the spleen, VMAT-1, VMAT-2 and dopamine D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5 receptor immunoreactivity was located primarily in the white pulp border and to a lesser extent in the white pulp. These findings indicate that both thymus and spleen express a dopaminergic system characterized by the presence of dopamine, vesicular monoamine transporters and the five subtypes of dopamine receptors. The presence of these dopaminergic markers suggests that dopamine likely originating from immune cells and/or from sympathetic neuroeffector plexus is released in the lymphoid microenvironment. Based on the microanatomical localization of dopaminergic markers investigated, a role of dopamine in maturation and selection of lymphocytes and activation of immune responses is suggested.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Dopamine / genetics
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Dopamine / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Spleen / metabolism*
  • Thymus Gland / metabolism*
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • Dopamine