Distribution of the vesicular transporter for acetylcholine in the rat central nervous system

Neuroscience. 1998 Feb;82(4):1195-212. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(97)00291-1.


In order to develop another selective marker for cholinergic cell bodies and fibres, we have raised a highly specific polyclonal antibody against a peptide derived from the C-terminus of a recently cloned putative vesicular acetylcholine transporter. This antibody recognizes the vesicular acetylcholine transporter protein on western blots of membranes from transfected monkey fibroblast COS cells as well as from various rat brain regions but not from untransfected COS cells or rat liver. In separate mapping studies, the antibody was found to stain cell bodies and fibres in all of the regions of the nervous system known to be cholinergic, including (i) the various nuclei of the basal nuclear complex and their projections to the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebral cortex, (ii) the caudate-putamen nucleus, accumbens nucleus, olfactory tubercle, and islands of Calleja complex, (iii) the medial habenula, (iv) the mesopontine cholinergic complex and its projections to the thalamus, extrapyramidal motor nuclei, basal forebrain, cingulate cortex, raphe and reticular nuclei, and some cranial nerve nuclei, and (v) the somatic motor and autonomic nuclei of the cranial and spinal nerves. In many of these cholinergic neurons, it is possible to detect immunoreactivity for the vesicular acetylcholine transporter in proximal portions of processes and their branches, as well as in numerous puncta in close association with them. Some of these puncta are large and surround cell bodies and processes of neurons in several regions, including the somatic motor neurons of cranial nerve nuclei in the brainstem and in the ventral horn of the spinal cord. Double immunofluorescence studies indicated that neurons positive for the vesicular acetylcholine transporter also stained for the biosynthetic enzyme of acetylcholine, choline acetyltransferase. We conclude that antibody against the C-terminus of the putative vesicular acetylcholine transporter provides another marker for cholinergic neurons that, unlike in situ hybridization procedures, labels terminals as well as cell bodies. Therefore this antibody has the potential to reveal changes in number and morphology of cholinergic cell bodies and their terminal varicosities that occur in both physiologic and pathologic conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism
  • Vesicular Acetylcholine Transport Proteins
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Slc18a3 protein, rat
  • Vesicular Acetylcholine Transport Proteins
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • Acetylcholine