Cholinergic neurons use the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to communicate with one another. During the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, which result in a loss of brain function, a reduction in the number of cholinergic neurons has been observed.
This means that the imaging and study of cholinergic neurons plays a key role in researching neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
This article takes a brief look at different molecular targets which can be used to image and study cholinergic neurons.
Acetylcholinesterase is a target enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, released into the synapses, into choline and acetate. Staining tissues with anti-acetylcholinesterase (ab2803) highlights the location of cholinergic junctions.
Choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) is another target enzyme for cholinergic neurons. ChAT catalyzes the synthesis of acetylcholine from choline chloride (ab145788) and acetyl-CoA. Staining tissue, such as spinal cord, with anti-choline acetyltransferase allows neurons containing ChAT to be imaged.
For more advanced research it is possible to inhibit ChAT using α-NETA (ab144314), a non-competitive inhibitor of ChAT that exhibits fluorescence and high selectivity.
Vesicular Acetylcholine Transporters
Vesicular acetylcholine transporters (VAChT) is a target transport protein which transports acetylcholine into vesicles for secretion. The energy for acetylcholine secretion is provided by a proton gradient, which is maintained by the proton pump ATPase.
Staining with anti-vesicular acetylcholine transporter (ab31544) highlights sites of acetylcholine secretion within neurological tissue.
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