The dopamine transporter (DAT) belongs to SLC6 family of Na+/Cl- coupled transporters and mediates clearance of released dopamine (DA) from the synaptic cleft. To investigate the constitutive trafficking of heterologously expressed DAT we fused the N-terminus of DAT to the intracellular tail of the single-membrane spanning protein Tac, thereby creating an extracellular antibody epitope. Upon expression in HEK293 cells this Tac-DAT fusion protein displayed uptake properties similar to the wild type (WT) transporter. Additionally, Tac-DAT was, like the WT, internalized both in response to PMA and amphetamine, a substrate of the DAT. In antibody feeding experiments we observed that Tac-DAT was constitutively internalized faster than Tac alone and using an ELISA based assay we could quantify time-dependent intracellular accumulation of the transporter. Incubation with inhibitors of lysosomal degradation (leupeptin, chloroquine, or ammonium chloride) increased the amount of transporter accumulated intracellularly over time, suggesting that constitutively endocytosed transporter was targeted to lysosomal degradation. This was further supported by expression of Tac-DAT in the immortalized dopaminergic cell line 1RB3AN27 in which constitutively internalized DAT co-localized with the late endosomal marker GFP-Rab7 and not with the recycling endosomal marker GFP-Rab11. To assess whether sorting to late endosomes/lysosomes was a property also inherent to natively expressed DAT, we prepared postnatal midbrain dopaminergic neurons and visualized the DAT directly in the neurons using the fluorescent cocaine analog JHC 1-064. These data showed pronounced colocalization upon constitutive internalization with Lysotracker, a late endosomal/lysosomal marker; however only little co-lolization was observed with Alexa488-conjugated transferrin. Our data suggest that constitutively internalized DAT primarily is targeted to late endosomes and lysosomes both in heterologous cells and in cultured dopaminergic neurons.
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Society for Neuroscience 36th annual meeting, 2006