Regulation of intracellular calcium is crucial both for proper neuronal function and survival. By coupling ATP hydrolysis with Ca(2+) extrusion from the cell, the plasma membrane calcium-dependent ATPases (PMCAs) play an essential role in controlling intracellular calcium levels in neurons. In contrast to PMCA2 and PMCA3, which are expressed in significant levels only in the brain and a few other tissues, PMCA1 is ubiquitously distributed, and is thus widely believed to play a ``housekeeping'' function in mammalian cells. Whereas the PMCA1b splice variant is predominant in most tissues, an alternative variant, PMCA1a, is the major form of PMCA1 in the adult brain. Here, we use immunohistochemistry to analyze the cellular and subcellular distribution of PMCA1a in the brain. We show that PMCA1a is not ubiquitously expressed, but rather is confined to neurons, where it concentrates in the plasma membrane of somata, dendrites, and spines. Thus, rather than serving a general housekeeping function, our data suggest that PMCA1a is a calcium pump specialized for neurons, where it may contribute to the modulation of somatic and dendritic Ca(2+) transients. J. Comp. Neurol. 518:3169-3183, 2010. (C) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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