Cultures of dissociated rat superior cervical ganglion neurons (SCGN) were treated with the sympatholytic agent, guanethidine. When treated within the first couple of weeks in vitro, the neurons were rapidly destroyed. The cells grew less susceptible to the toxic effects of guanethidine with age in vitro. Moreover, the apparent affinity, Km, of the transport molecule for norepinephrine (NE) and guanethidine remained essentially unchanged between 2 and 7 wk in culture, as did the maximum velocity of transport (Vmax). This is at a time when previous studies have shown these neurons to be using acetylcholine (ACh) as their neurotransmitter. Cultures which were grown without supporting cells and from which cholinergic synaptic interactions were recorded physiologically were processed for autoradiography after incubation with [3H]NE. All cell bodies and processes seen had silver grains accumulated over them. These experiments show that sympathetic neurons in vitro maintain their amine uptake system relatively unchanged, even though they use ACh as their transmitter. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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