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Differential expression of VGLUT2 in mouse mesopontine cholinergic neurons


Vesicular glutamate transporters (VGLUTs) mediate the synaptic uptake of glutamate from the cytosol into synaptic vesicles and are considered unambiguous neurochemical markers of glutamate neurons. However, many neurons not classically thought of as glutamatergic also express a VGLUT and co-release glutamate. Using a genetic fate-mapping strategy we found that most cholinergic neurons in the mouse mesopontine tegmentum express VGLUT2 at some point during development, including the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPTg), laterodorsal tegmental nucleus, and parabigeminal nucleus (PBG), but not the oculomotor nucleus. In contrast, very few of these cholinergic neurons displayed evidence of vesicular GABA transporter expression. Using multiplex fluorescent in situ hybridization, we determined that only PBG cholinergic neurons are also predominantly positive for VGLUT2 mRNA in the adult, with only small numbers of PPTg cholinergic neurons overlapping with VGLUT2 mRNA. Using Cre-dependent viral vectors we confirm these in situ hybridization data, and demonstrate projection patterns of cholinergic and glutamatergic populations. These results demonstrate that most mesopontine cholinergic neurons may transiently express VGLUT2, but that a large majority of PBG neurons retain VGLUT2 expression throughout adulthood, and support a growing body of literature indicating that distinct cholinergic populations have differing potential for GABA or glutamate co-release.

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