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Heterogeneous distribution of kir3 potassium channel proteins within dopaminergic neurons in the mesencephalon of the rat brain.

Dirk Eulitz, Harald Prüss, Christian Derst, Rudiger W Veh

Cell. Mol. Neurobiol., 2007 May , 27, 285-302

1. Dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the ventral mesencephalon play an important role in the regulation of the parallel basal ganglia loops.2. We have raised affinity-purified polyclonal rabbit antibodies specific for all four members of the Kir3 family of inwardly rectifying potassium channels (Kir3.1-Kir3.4) to investigate the distribution of the channel proteins in the dopaminergic neurons of the rat mesencephalon at light and electron microscopic level. In addition, immunocytochemical double labeling with tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), a marker of dopaminergic neurons, were performed.3. All Kir3 channels were present in this region. However, the individual proteins showed differential cellular and subcellular distributions.4. Kir3.1 immunoreactivity was found in SNc fibers and some neurons of the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr). Few Kir3.3-positive neurons were found in the SNc. However, a strong Kir3.3 signal was identified in the SNr neuropil. Weak Kir3.4 staining was detected in neuronal somata as well as in dendritic fibers of both parts of the SN.5. In the VTA, Kir3.1, Kir3.3, and Kir3.4 showed only weak staining of neuropil structures. The distribution of the Kir3.2 channel protein was especially striking with strong labeling in the SNc and in the lateral but not central VTA.6. Our results suggest that the heterogeneously distributed Kir3.2 channel proteins could help to discriminate the dopaminergic neurons of VTA and SNc.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17235695