Cytokines inhibit norepinephrine transporter expression by decreasing Hand2

Michael J. Pellegrino, Diana C. Parrish, Richard E. Zigmond, Beth A. Habecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Functional noradrenergic transmission requires the coordinate expression of enzymes involved in norepinephrine (NE) synthesis, as well as the norepinephrine transporter (NET) which removes NE from the synapse. Inflammatory cytokines acting through gp130 can suppress the noradrenergic phenotype in sympathetic neurons. This occurs in a subset of sympathetic neurons during development and also occurs in adult neurons after injury. For example, cytokines suppress noradrenergic function in sympathetic neurons after axotomy and during heart failure. The molecular basis for suppression of noradrenergic genes is not well understood, but previous studies implicated a reduction of Phox2a in cytokine suppression of dopamine beta hydroxylase. We used sympathetic neurons and neuroblastoma cells to investigate the role of Phox2a in cytokine suppression of NET transcription. Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments revealed that Phox2a did not bind the NET promoter, and overexpression of Phox2a did not prevent cytokine suppression of NET transcription. Hand2 and Gata3 are transcription factors that induce noradrenergic genes during development and are present in mature sympathetic neurons. Both Hand2 and Gata3 were decreased by cytokines in sympathetic neurons and neuroblastoma cells. Overexpression of either Hand2 or Gata3 was sufficient to rescue NET transcription following suppression by cytokines. We examined expression of these genes following axotomy to determine if their expression was altered following nerve injury. NET and Hand2 mRNAs decreased significantly in sympathetic neurons 48 h after axotomy, but Gata3 mRNA was unchanged. These data suggest that cytokines can inhibit NET expression through downregulation of Hand2 or Gata3 in cultured sympathetic neurons, but axotomy in adult animals selectively suppresses Hand2 expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-680
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and Cellular Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Axotomy
  • Cytokines
  • Gata3
  • Hand2
  • Phox2a
  • Sympathetic neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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