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Advillin Is Expressed in All Adult Neural Crest-Derived Neurons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Diana V Hunter, Brittney D Smaila, Douglas M Lopes, Jun Takatoh, Franziska Denk, Matt S Ramer

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Early online date18 Sep 2018
Accepted/In press27 Aug 2018
E-pub ahead of print18 Sep 2018


King's Authors


Promoter-based genetic recombination (via, e.g., Cre-lox) is most useful when all cells of interest express a particular gene. The discovery that the actin-binding protein advillin is expressed in all somatic sensory neurons has been exploited repeatedly to drive DNA recombination therein, yet specificity of expression has not been well demonstrated. Here, we characterize advillin expression amongst sensory neurons and in several other neural and non-neural tissues. We first validate an advillin antibody against advillin knock-out tissue, advillin promoter-driven EGFP, and advillin mRNA expression. In the dorsal root ganglion (DRG), advillin is enriched in non-peptidergic nociceptors. We also show that advillin expression, and advillin promotor-driven EGFP and Cre-recombinase expression, occurs in multiple tissues including the dorsal habenula of the epithalamus, endocrine cells of the gut, Merkel cells in the skin, and most strikingly, throughout the autonomic nervous system (sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric neurons) in mice, rats, and non-human primates. In the mouse pelvic ganglion, advillin immunoreactivity is most intense in pairs of small neurons, and concentrated in spine-like structures on the axon initial segment contacted by sympathetic preganglionic axons. In autonomic targets (iris and blood vessels), advillin is distributed along cholinergic parasympathetic axons and in sympathetic varicosities. Developmentally, advillin expression is absent from sympathetics at postnatal day 4 but begins to emerge by day 7, accounting for previous reports (based on embryonic expression) of advillin's specificity to sensory neurons. These results indicate that caution is warranted in interpreting previous studies in which advillin-driven genomic editing is either constitutive or performed after postnatal day 4.

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