APP+, a fluorescent analogue of the neurotoxin MPP+, is a marker of catecholamine neurons in brain tissue, but not a fluorescent false neurotransmitter

ACS Chem Neurosci. 2013 May 15;4(5):858-69. doi: 10.1021/cn400038u. Epub 2013 May 6.


We have previously introduced fluorescent false neurotransmitters (FFNs) as optical reporters that enable visualization of individual dopaminergic presynaptic terminals and their activity in the brain. In this context, we examined the fluorescent pyridinium dye 4-(4-dimethylamino)phenyl-1-methylpyridinium (APP+), a fluorescent analogue of the dopaminergic neurotoxin MPP+, in acute mouse brain tissue. APP+ is a substrate for the dopamine transporter (DAT), norepinephrine transporter (NET), and serotonin transporter (SERT), and as such represented a candidate for the development of new FFN probes. Here we report that APP+ labels cell bodies of catecholaminergic neurons in the midbrain in a DAT- and NET-dependent manner, as well as fine dopaminergic axonal processes in the dorsal striatum. APP+ destaining from presynaptic terminals in the dorsal striatum was also examined under the conditions inducing depolarization and exocytotic neurotransmitter release. Application of KCl led to a small but significant degree of destaining (approximately 15% compared to control), which stands in contrast to a nearly complete destaining of the new generation FFN agent, FFN102. Electrical stimulation of brain slices at 10 Hz afforded no significant change in the APP+ signal. These results indicate that the majority of the APP+ signal in axonal processes originates from labeled organelles including mitochondria, whereas only a minor component of the APP+ signal represents the releasable synaptic vesicular pool. These results also show that APP+ may serve as a useful probe for identifying catecholaminergic innervations in the brain, although it is a poor candidate for the development of FFNs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 1-Methyl-4-phenylpyridinium / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adrenergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Aniline Compounds / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neostriatum / metabolism
  • Norepinephrine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Pyridinium Compounds / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism


  • 4-(4-(dimethylamino)phenyl)-1-methylpyridinium
  • Aniline Compounds
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Norepinephrine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Pyridinium Compounds
  • Slc6a2 protein, mouse
  • Slc6a3 protein, mouse
  • 1-Methyl-4-phenylpyridinium