A putative vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) was overexpressed in developing Xenopus spinal neurons by injection of rat VAChT cDNA or synthetic mRNA into Xenopus embryos. This resulted in a marked increase in the amplitude and frequency of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents at neuromuscular synapses, reflecting an over 10-fold increase in the vesicular packaging of acetylcholine (ACh). The effect appeared in developing neurons even before synaptogenesis and was blocked by L-vesamicol, a specific blocker of ACh uptake into synaptic vesicles. Mutational studies showed that two highly conserved aspartate residues within putative transmembrane domains 4 and 10 are essential for the transport activity. These results provide direct evidence for the physiological function of a putative VAChT and demonstrate that quantal size can be regulated by changes in vesicular transporter activity.
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