The vesicular glutamate transporters (VGLUTs) regulate the storage and release of glutamate in the brain. In adult animals, the VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 isoforms are widely expressed and differentially distributed, suggesting that neural circuits exhibit distinct modes of glutamate regulation. Studies in rodents suggest that VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 mRNA expression patterns are partly complementary, with VGLUT1 expressed at higher levels in the cortex and VGLUT2 prominent subcortically, but with overlapping distributions in some nuclei. In primates, VGLUT gene expression has not been previously studied in any part of the brain. The purposes of the present study were to document the regional expression of VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 mRNA in the auditory pathway through A1 in the cortex, and to determine whether their distributions are comparable to rodents. In situ hybridization with antisense riboprobes revealed that VGLUT2 was strongly expressed by neurons in the cerebellum and most major auditory nuclei, including the dorsal and ventral cochlear nuclei, medial and lateral superior olivary nuclei, central nucleus of the inferior colliculus, sagulum, and all divisions of the medial geniculate. VGLUT1 was densely expressed in the hippocampus and ventral cochlear nuclei, and at reduced levels in other auditory nuclei. In the auditory cortex, neurons expressing VGLUT1 were widely distributed in layers II-VI of the core, belt and parabelt regions. VGLUT2 was expressed most strongly by neurons in layers IIIb and IV, weakly by neurons in layers II-IIIa, and at very low levels in layers V-VI. The findings indicate that VGLUT2 is strongly expressed by neurons at all levels of the subcortical auditory pathway, and by neurons in the middle layers of the cortex, whereas VGLUT1 is strongly expressed by most if not all glutamatergic neurons in the auditory cortex and at variable levels among auditory subcortical nuclei. These patterns imply that VGLUT2 is the main vesicular glutamate transporter in subcortical and thalamocortical (TC) circuits, whereas VGLUT1 is dominant in corticocortical (CC) and corticothalamic (CT) systems of projections. The results also suggest that VGLUT mRNA expression patterns in primates are similar to rodents, and establish a baseline for detailed studies of these transporters in selected circuits of the auditory system.
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