Axonal Transport of Zinc Transporter 3 and Zinc Containing Organelles in the Rodent Adrenergic System

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Zinc is the second most abundant trace metal (after iron) in mammalian tissues, and it is an essential element for growth, development, DNA synthesis, immunity, and other important cellular processes. A considerable amount of zinc in the brain exists as a pool of free or loosely bound zinc ions in synaptic vesicles with zinc transporter 3 (ZnT3) in their membranes. Here we demonstrate that also in the peripheral sympathetic nervous system zinc handling neurons exist. In autonomic ganglia of rats and mice a subset of neuronal cell bodies contain zinc, visualized by the autometallographic (AMG) and TSQ histochemical methods. The Zn-transporter 3 is, as shown by immunofluorescence, also present in tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive neurons, but rarely in cell bodies with neuropeptide Y (NPY)-immunoreactivity (IR). In axons of crush-operated sciatic nerves a rapid bidirectional accumulation of AMG granules occurred. Also ZnT3-IR was found to accumulate rapidly in anterograde as well as retrograde direction, colocalized with TH-IR. So far nerve terminals with ZnT3-IR have not been observed. The functional significance of zinc ions in the sympathetic system is not known.

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