Glutamate is the major excitatory transmitter in the brain. Vesicular glutamate transporters (VGLUT1-3) are responsible for uploading glutamate into synaptic vesicles. VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 are considered as specific markers of canonical glutamatergic neurons, while VGLUT3 is found in neurons previously shown to use other neurotransmitters than glutamate. Although there exists a rich literature on the localization of these glutamatergic markers in the rodent brain, little is currently known about the distribution of VGLUT1-3 in the human brain. In the present study, using subtype specific probes and antisera, we examined the localization of the three vesicular glutamate transporters in the human brain by in situ hybridization, immunoautoradiography and immunohistochemistry. We found that the VGLUT1 transcript was highly expressed in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum, whereas VGLUT2 mRNA was mainly found in the thalamus and brainstem. VGLUT3 mRNA was localized in scarce neurons within the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, striatum and raphe nuclei. Following immunoautoradiographic labeling, intense VGLUT1- and VGLUT2-immunoreactivities were observed in all regions investigated (cerebral cortex, hippocampus, caudate-putamen, cerebellum, thalamus, amygdala, substantia nigra, raphe) while VGLUT3 was absent from the thalamus and cerebellum. This extensive mapping of VGLUT1-3 in human brain reveals distributions that correspond for the most part to those previously described in rodent brains.
Keywords: Homo sapiens; VGLUTs; anatomy; brain; glutamate; neurotransmission.