, Volume 212, Issue 1-2, pp 61-70

Norepinephrine transporter expression and function in noradrenergic cell differentiations

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Abstract

The classical view of norepinephrine transporter (NET) function is the re-uptake of released norepinephrine (NE) by mature sympathetic neurons and noradrenergic neurons of the locus ceruleus (LC; [1-3]). In this report we review previous data and present new results that show that NET is expressed in the young embryo in a wide range of neuronal and non-neuronal tissues and that NET has additional functions during embryonic development. Sympathetic neurons are derived from neural crest stem cells. Fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) regulate NET expression in cultured quail neural crest cells by causing an increase in NET mRNA levels. They also promote NET function in both neural crest cells and presumptive noradrenergic cells of the LC. The growth factors are synthesized by the neural crest cells and therefore are likely to have autocrine function. In a subsequent stage of development, NE transport regulates differentiation of noradrenergic neurons in the peripheral nervous system and the LC by promoting expression of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and dopamine-β-hydroxylase (DBH). Conversely, uptake inhibitors, such as the tricyclic antidepressant, desipramine, and the drug of abuse, cocaine, inhibit noradrenergic differentiation in both tissues. Taken together, our data indicate that NET is expressed early in embryonic development, NE transport is involved in regulating expression of the noradrenergic phenotype in the peripheral and central nervous systems, and norepinephrine uptake inhibitors can disturb noradrenergic cell differentiation in the sympathetic ganglion (SG) and LC.