Areal and Subcellular Localization of the Ubiquitous Alkaline Phosphatase in the Primate Cerebral Cortex: Evidence for a Role in Neurotransmission

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The ubiquitous enzyme TNAP (tissue non-specific alkaline phosphatase) is found in numerous tissues such as liver, kidney and bone, but little attention has been paid to its expression and role in the brain. Observations in TNAP-KO mice, which analyzed the role of this enzyme in osteogenesis, had suggested that TNAP might be involved in GABA neurotransmission. Apart from its presence in endothelial cells, here we show a specific and strong alkaline phosphatase (AP) activity in the neuropile, matching the pattern of thalamo-cortical innervation in layer 4 of the primate sensory cortices (visual, auditory and somatosensory). Such a pattern is also evident in rodents and carnivores, making AP a powerful marker of primary sensory areas. Remarkably, AP activity is regulated by sensory experience as demonstrated by monocular deprivation paradigms in monkeys. The areal and laminar distribution of AP activity matches that of the GAD65, the GABA synthesizing enzyme found in presynatic terminals. As our electron microscopic investigations indicate that AP is found at the neuronal membranes and in synaptic contacts, it is proposed that the neuronal AP isoform (NAP), may be a key enzyme in regulating neurotransmission and could therefore play an important role in developmental plasticity and activity-dependent cortical functions.

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