The organization of the mouse choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) gene has been previously analyzed. Here we show that the first intron of the mouse ChAT gene contains an uninterrupted open reading frame. It is in the same transcriptional orientation as ChAT and encodes the vesicular acetylcholine (ACh) transporter (VAChT), the protein responsible for the translocation of cytoplasmic ACh into synaptic vesicles. The sequence of this transporter is very similar to the VAChT from rat and human (99% and 95% identity, respectively). Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis showed expression of mouse VAChT mRNA in spinal cord, brain (excluding the cerebellum) and brain stem, but not in peripheral tissues such as liver and kidney. Transgenic mouse analysis revealed that the 5'-flanking region of the mouse ChAT gene encompasses regulatory elements that allowed elevated expression of VAChT in the cholinergic system of transgenic mice.
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