Mice with a genetic deletion of the dopamine transporter (DAT) were used to assess its role in the function of dopamine (DA) neurons. Profound alterations in the homeostasis of the nigrostriatal DA system were induced by the absence of the DAT. Extracellular levels of DA were elevated and clearance of released DA was 300-times slower than in control mice. This was accompanied by a 20-fold decrease in tissue DA levels and a paradoxical doubling of the rate of DA synthesis. A crucial role is indicated for the DAT in maintenance of DA neuron presynaptic function, particularly in the control of storage mechanisms.
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