Capillary electrophoresis has been used to directly identify and measure the neurotransmitter, dopamine, in two vesicular compartments in a single nerve cell of Planorbis corneus. Dopamine in the cytoplasm and in easily released transmitter vesicles was separated from dopamine in what are apparently non-functional storage vesicles. In this method, the two peaks in the electropherogram attributed to dopamine were differentiated based on cell lyse time in a non-physiological buffer. The measurements presented here suggest that of the total dopamine present in the cell: 24% is in the cytoplasmic and easily released compartments and 76% is more centrally located, perhaps in a reserve compartment, in the cell. This methodology provides the means to determine molecular species in subcellular compartments and should allow kinetic parameters associated with membrane lysing to be evaluated at single nerve cells.
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