The cholinergic neurons have long been a model for biochemical studies of neurotransmission. The components responsible for cholinergic neurotransmission, such as choline acetyltransferase, vesicular acetylcholine transporter, nicotinic and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, and acetylcholine esterase, have long been defined as functional units and then identified as molecular entities. Another essential component in the cholinergic synapses is the one responsible for choline uptake from the synaptic cleft, which is thought to be the rate-limiting step in acetylcholine synthesis. A choline uptake system with a high affinity for choline has long been assumed to be present in cholinergic neurons. Very recently, the molecular entity for the high-affinity choline transporter was identified and is designated CHT1. CHT1 mediates Na+-and Cl--dependent choline uptake with high sensitivity to hemicholinium-3. CHT1 has been characterized both at the molecular and functional levels and was confirmed to be specifically expressed in cholinergic neurons.
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