• amphioxus;
  • cholinergic motoneurons and interneurons;
  • cholinergic gene locus;
  • ChAT;
  • VAChT;
  • development;
  • evolution;
  • ISH


The cholinergic gene locus (CGL), consisting of the vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT)/choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) gene, encodes two specific cholinergic neuronal markers used extensively to study cholinergic transmission. In the present work, we isolated the amphioxus homologs of VAChT and ChAT and examined their expression during development. Analysis of the 5′ untranslated region of VAChT and ChAT suggests that the splicing of the VAChT/ChAT mRNA has been evolutionarily conserved in amphioxus and mammals. By double whole-mount in situ hybridization, we demonstrate that VAChT and ChAT are coexpressed in the same cells. They are first expressed in four pairs of differentiating cells in the neural plate. Their later expression is primarily in the anterior nerve cord in several types of motoneurons, some of the interneurons and in the receptor cells of the larval ocellus. Developmental Dynamics 237:1399-1411, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.