Vesicular amine transporter expression and isoform selection in developing brain, peripheral nervous system and gut

Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 1998 Mar 12;106(1-2):181-204. doi: 10.1016/s0165-3806(97)00196-x.


The vesicular monoamine transporters VMAT1 and VMAT2 are essential components of monoaminergic neurons and endocrine cells whose expression in development may provide insight into lineage pathways for chemical coding in the diffuse neuroendocrine system. Thus, the brain is a compartment in which only monoaminergic neurons are generated, the gut epithelium generates only endocrine monoamine-containing cells, and the neural crest produces both autonomic monoaminergic neurons and endocrine/paracrine monoaminergic cells. Selection of either the VMAT1 or VMAT2 isoform was examined in these three compartments during development. In the central nervous system VMAT2, but not VMAT1, was expressed in neuroepithelial cells by embryonic day 12 (E12), and all major monoaminergic cell groups by E14. Thalamocortical and hypothalamic neurons that do not express VMAT2 in adulthood were transiently VMAT2-positive from E16 to postnatal day 6 (P6). EC cells of the gut expressed exclusively VMAT1 from E19 on, while histamine-containing enterochromaffin-like (ECL) cells of the stomach expressed only VMAT2 by E19 and throughout postnatal development. VMAT2 and the vesicular acetylcholine transporter VAChT were co-expressed in early development of the primary sympathetic chain as well as in the cranial parasympathetic ganglia. VAChT was progressively restricted to a small population of VMAT2-negative post-ganglionic neurons in the adult sympathetic chain, while VMAT2 expression persisted in sympathetic principal ganglion and SIF cells but was eventually extinguished in cranial parasympathetic ganglia. VMAT1 was co-expressed with VAChT and VMAT2 mRNA in the primary sympathetic chain on E12, but progressively restricted to small intensely fluorescent (SIF) and chromaffin cells thereafter. Thus, expression of the vesicular amine transporters appropriate for chemical coding of brain neurons and gut endocrine cells are pre-determined developmentally. In contrast, the neural crest-derived sympathoadrenal and neural crest-derived parasympathetic cell groups examined here initially co-express two or more vesicular amine transporters, followed by extinction of the inappropriate transporter(s) later in development. Some neural crest-derived neuroendocrine cell populations continue to express both isoforms of VMAT even in adulthood. Lineage distinctions in ontogeny of vesicular amine transporter expression in brain, gut and autonomic nervous system make it likely that the same genes are regulated differently in the autonomic nervous system compared to brain and gut.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / physiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intestines / chemistry*
  • Intestines / embryology
  • Intestines / growth & development
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / analysis*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Neuropeptides*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / analysis*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / chemistry*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / embryology
  • Peripheral Nervous System / growth & development
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Vesicular Biogenic Amine Transport Proteins
  • Vesicular Monoamine Transport Proteins


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Slc18a1 protein, rat
  • Slc18a2 protein, rat
  • Vesicular Biogenic Amine Transport Proteins
  • Vesicular Monoamine Transport Proteins