Dense-core vesicles (DCVs) are responsible for transporting, processing, and secreting neuropeptide cargos that mediate a wide range of biological processes, including neuronal development, survival, and learning and memory. DCVs are synthesized in the cell body and are transported by kinesin motor proteins along microtubules to pre- and postsynaptic release sites. Due to the dependence on kinesin-based transport, we sought to determine if the kinesin-3 family member, KIF1A, transports DCVs in primary cultured hippocampal neurons, as has been described for invertebrate neurons. Two-color, live-cell imaging showed that the DCV markers, chromogranin A-RFP and BDNF-RFP, move together with KIF1A-GFP in both the anterograde and retrograde directions. To demonstrate a functional role for KIF1A in DCV transport, motor protein expression in neurons was reduced using RNA interference (shRNA). Fluorescently tagged DCV markers showed a significant reduction in organelle flux in cells expressing shRNA against KIF1A. The transport of cargo driven by motors other than KIF1A, including mitochondria and the transferrin receptor, was unaffected in KIF1A shRNA expressing cells. Taken together, these data support a primary role for KIF1A in the anterograde transport of DCVs in mammalian neurons, and also provide evidence that KIF1A remains associated with DCVs during retrograde DCV transport.
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