Involvement of Nurr1 in specifying the neurotransmitter identity of ventral midbrain dopaminergic neurons

Authors

  • Simone M. Smits,

    1. Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Pharmacology and Anatomy, University Medical Center Utrecht, Universiteitsweg 100, 3584 CG Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Tiia Ponnio,

    1. Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA
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  • Orla M. Conneely,

    1. Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA
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  • J. Peter H. Burbach,

    1. Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Pharmacology and Anatomy, University Medical Center Utrecht, Universiteitsweg 100, 3584 CG Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Marten P. Smidt

    1. Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Pharmacology and Anatomy, University Medical Center Utrecht, Universiteitsweg 100, 3584 CG Utrecht, The Netherlands
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: Dr M. P. Smidt, as above.
E-mail: m.p.smidt@med.uu.nl

Abstract

The mesencephalic dopaminergic (mesDA) system is involved in many brain functions including motor control and motivated behaviour, and is of clinical importance because of its implication in psychiatric disorders and Parkinson's disease. Nurr1, a member of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily of transcription factors, is essential for establishing the dopaminergic phenotype, because expression of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the rate-limiting enzyme in dopamine synthesis, requires Nurr1. In addition, Nurr1 plays an important role in the maintenance of mesDA neurons. Neonatal Nurr1 knockout mice lack expression of the dopamine transporter (DAT), the vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) and l-aromatic amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) in addition to TH specifically in mesDA neurons. It is unclear whether the lack of expression of these dopaminergic markers is caused by a maintenance defect or whether the induction of these markers depends on Nurr1 expression. To address this problem, the expression of DAT, VMAT2 and AADC was analysed at embryonic day 12.5 and 14.5. Here we demonstrate that induction of VMAT2 and DAT specifically in mesDA neurons requires Nurr1 expression, whereas AADC expression in mesDA neurons is induced independently of Nurr1 function.

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