Ventral tegmental area leptin receptor neurons specifically project to and regulate cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript neurons of the extended central amygdala.
ABSTRACT: Leptin acts via its receptor (LepRb) to regulate neural circuits in concert with body energy stores. In addition to acting on a number of hypothalamic structures, leptin modulates the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system. To determine the sites at which LepRb neurons might directly influence the mesolimbic DA system, we examined the distribution of LepRb neurons and their projections within mesolimbic brain regions. Although the ventral tegmental area (VTA) contains DA LepRb neurons, LepRb neurons are absent from the amygdala and striatum. Also, LepRb-EGFPf mice (which label projections from LepRb neurons throughout the brain) reveal that few LepRb neurons project to the nucleus accumbens (NAc). In contrast, the central amygdala (CeA) and its rostral extension receive copious projections from LepRb neurons. Indeed, LepRb-specific anterograde tracing demonstrates (and retrograde tracing confirms) that VTA LepRb neurons project to the extended CeA (extCeA) but not the NAc. Consistently, leptin promotes cAMP response element-binding protein phosphorylation in the extCeA, but not NAc, of leptin-deficient animals. Furthermore, transgenic mice expressing the trans-synaptic tracer wheat germ agglutinin in LepRb neurons reveal the innervation of CeA cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) neurons by LepRb neurons, and leptin suppresses the increased CeA CART expression of leptin-deficient animals. Thus, LepRb VTA neurons represent a subclass of VTA DA neurons that specifically innervates and controls the extCeA; we hypothesize that these neurons primarily modulate CeA-directed behaviors.
Project description:The lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) acts in concert with the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and other components of the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system to control motivation, including the incentive to feed. The anorexigenic hormone leptin modulates the mesolimbic DA system, although the mechanisms underlying this control have remained incompletely understood. We show that leptin directly regulates a population of leptin receptor (LepRb)-expressing inhibitory neurons in the LHA and that leptin action via these LHA LepRb neurons decreases feeding and body weight. Furthermore, these LHA LepRb neurons innervate the VTA, and leptin action on these neurons restores VTA expression of the rate-limiting enzyme in DA production along with mesolimbic DA content in leptin-deficient animals. Thus, these findings reveal that LHA LepRb neurons link anorexic leptin action to the mesolimbic DA system.
Project description:Neurons of the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) control motivated behaviors such as feeding and ambulatory activity, in part by modulating mesolimbic dopamine (DA) circuits. The hormone, leptin, acts via the long form of the leptin receptor (LepRb) in the brain to signal the repletion of body energy stores, thereby decreasing feeding and promoting activity. LHA LepRb neurons, most of which contain neurotensin (Nts; LepRb(Nts) neurons) link leptin action to the control of mesolimbic DA function and energy balance. To understand potential roles for Nts in these processes, we examined mice null for Nts receptor 1 (NtsR1KO). While NtsR1KO mice consume less food than controls on a chow diet, they eat more and become obese when fed a high-fat, high-sucrose palatable diet; NtsR1KO mice also exhibit augmented sucrose preference, consistent with increased hedonic feeding in these animals. We thus sought to understand potential roles for NtsR1 in the control of the mesolimbic DA system and LHA leptin action. LHA Nts cells project to DA-containing midbrain areas, including the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the substantia nigra (SN), where many DA neurons express NtsR1. Furthermore, in contrast to wild-type mice, intra-LHA leptin treatment increased feeding and decreased VTA Th expression in NtsR1KO mice, consistent with a role for NtsR1 signaling from LHA LepRb neurons in the suppression of food intake and control of mesolimbic DA function. Additionally, these data suggest that other leptin-regulated LHA neurotransmitters normally oppose aspects of Nts action to promote balanced responses to leptin.
Project description:Leptin acts on leptin receptor (LepRb)-expressing neurons throughout the brain, but the roles for many populations of LepRb neurons in modulating energy balance and behavior remain unclear. We found that the majority of LepRb neurons in the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) contain neurotensin (Nts). To investigate the physiologic role for leptin action via these LepRb(Nts) neurons, we generated mice null for LepRb specifically in Nts neurons (Nts-LepRbKO mice). Nts-LepRbKO mice demonstrate early-onset obesity, modestly increased feeding, and decreased locomotor activity. Furthermore, consistent with the connection of LepRb(Nts) neurons with local orexin (OX) neurons and the ventral tegmental area (VTA), Nts-LepRbKO mice exhibit altered regulation of OX neurons and the mesolimbic DA system. Thus, LHA LepRb(Nts) neurons mediate physiologic leptin action on OX neurons and the mesolimbic DA system, and contribute importantly to the control of energy balance.
Project description:Mesolimbic dopamine (DA) neurons play a central role in motivation and reward processing. Although the activity of these mesolimbic DA neurons is controlled by afferent inputs, little is known about the circuits in which they are embedded. Using retrograde tracing, electrophysiology, optogenetics, and behavioral assays, we identify principles of afferent-specific control in the mesolimbic DA system. Neurons in the medial shell subdivision of the nucleus accumbens (NAc) exert direct inhibitory control over two separate populations of mesolimbic DA neurons by activating different GABA receptor subtypes. In contrast, NAc lateral shell neurons mainly synapse onto ventral tegmental area (VTA) GABA neurons, resulting in disinhibition of DA neurons that project back to the NAc lateral shell. Lastly, we establish a critical role for NAc subregion-specific input to the VTA underlying motivated behavior. Collectively, our results suggest a distinction in the incorporation of inhibitory inputs between different subtypes of mesolimbic DA neurons.
Project description:Leptin acts via the long form of the leptin receptor (LepRb) on specialized sets of neurons in the brain to modulate diverse functions in concert with energy stores. Previous studies have revealed the distribution of LepRb-expressing neurons in the brain but not the regions to which LepRb neurons project to mediate downstream leptin actions. We utilized LepRb-cre in combination with cre-inducible enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) and farnesylated EGFP (EGFPf) mouse reporter strains to visualize LepRb neurons and their projections, respectively, throughout the brain. The areas containing LepRb soma and projections were relatively circumscribed, as many brain regions contained no detectable EGFP or EGFPf. The highest concentrations of LepRb neurons and LepRb projections were found in the hypothalamus, where the ventral premamillary (PMv), dorsomedial (DMH), and arcuate (ARC) nuclei contained the greatest number of cell bodies, in addition to substantial EGFPf-reactivity. Furthermore, both LepRb soma and projections were present in a few midbrain and brainstem nuclei. Several brain regions including the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVH), the anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AVPe), and the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) contained few LepRb neurons but substantial EGFPf, suggesting that these regions represent targets of LepRb neurons that lie elsewhere in the brain. In some nuclei that contained both soma and projections, the distribution of soma and projections differed, suggesting that these areas transmit leptin-encoded information in a neuroanatomically directional manner.
Project description:The regulatory mechanisms underlying the response to addictive drugs are complex, and increasing evidence indicates that there is a role for appetite-regulating pathways in substance abuse. Leptin, an important adipose hormone that regulates energy balance and appetite, exerts its physiological functions via leptin receptors. However, the role of leptin signaling in regulating the response to cocaine remains unclear. Here we examined the potential role of leptin signaling in cocaine reward using a conditioned place preference (CPP) procedure. Our results showed that inhibition of leptin signaling by intracerebroventricular infusion of the leptin receptor (LepR) antagonist SMLA during cocaine conditioning increased the cocaine-CPP and upregulated the level of dopamine and its metabolites in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). We then selectively knocked down the LepR in the mesolimbic ventral tegmental area (VTA), NAc core and central amygdala (CeA) by injecting AAV-Cre into Leprflox/flox mice. LepR deletion in the VTA increased the dopamine levels in the NAc and enhanced the cocaine-conditioned reward. LepR deletion in the NAc core enhanced the cocaine-conditioned reward and impaired the effect of the D2-dopamine receptor on cocaine-CPP, whereas LepR deletion in the CeA had no effect on cocaine-CPP but increased the anxiety level of mice. In addition, prior exposure to saccharin increased LepR mRNA and STAT3 phosphorylation in the NAc and VTA and impaired cocaine-CPP. These results indicate that leptin signaling is critically involved in cocaine-conditioned reward and the regulation of drug reward by a natural reward and that these effects are dependent on mesolimbic LepR.
Project description:Increasing evidence suggests that the mesolimbic reward system plays critical roles in the regulation of depression and nociception; however, its circuitry and cellular mechanisms remain unclear. In this study, we investigated the output-specific regulatory roles of dopaminergic (DA) neurons within the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in depressive-like and nociceptive behaviors in mice subjected to unpredictable chronic mild stress (CMS), using the projection-specific electrophysiological recording, pharmacological manipulation, behavioral test, and molecular biology technologies. We demonstrated that CMS decreased the firing activity in VTA projecting to medial prefrontal cortex (VTA ? mPFC), but not in VTA to nucleus accumbens (VTA ? NAc), DA neurons. However, both VTA ? mPFC and VTA ? NAc DA neurons showed increased firing activity in response to morphine perfusion in CMS mice. Behavioral results showed that intra-VTA microinjection of morphine (25.5 ng/0.15 ?L) relieved depressive-like behaviors, intriguingly, accompanied by a thermal hyperalgesia. Furthermore, the relief of depressive-like behaviors induced by intra-VTA injection of morphine in CMS mice could be prevented by blocking brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signaling and mimicked by the administration of exogenous BDNF in mPFC rather than in NAc shell. Nociceptive responses induced by the activation of VTA DA neurons with morphine in CMS mice could be prevented by blocking BDNF signaling or mimicked by administration of exogenous BDNF in NAc shell, but not in mPFC. These results reveal projection-specific regulatory mechanisms of depression and nociception in the mesolimbic reward circuitry and provide new insights into the neural circuits involved in the processing of depressive and nociceptive information.
Project description:Dopamine (DA) transmission in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) facilitates cue-reward associations and appetitive action. Reward-related accumbal DA release dynamics are traditionally ascribed to ventral tegmental area (VTA) DA neurons. Activation of VTA to NAc DA signaling is thought to reinforce action and transfer reward-related information to predictive cues, allowing cues to guide behavior and elicit dopaminergic activity. Here, we use optogenetics to control DA neuron activity and voltammetry to simultaneously record accumbal DA release in order to quantify how reinforcer-evoked dopaminergic activity shapes conditioned mesolimbic DA transmission. We find that cues predicting access to DA neuron self-stimulation elicit conditioned responding and NAc DA release. However, cue-evoked DA release does not reflect the cost or magnitude of DA neuron activation. Accordingly, conditioned accumbal DA release selectively tracks the expected availability of DA-neuron-mediated reinforcement. This work provides insight into how mesolimbic DA transmission drives and encodes appetitive action.
Project description:Nicotine is the primary psychoactive component of tobacco. Its reinforcing and addictive properties depend on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) located within the mesolimbic axis originating in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The roles and oligomeric assembly of subunit ?4- and subunit ?6-containing nAChRs in dopaminergic (DAergic) neurons are much debated. Using subunit-specific knockout mice and targeted lentiviral re-expression, we have determined the subunit dependence of intracranial nicotine self-administration (ICSA) into the VTA and the effects of nicotine on dopamine (DA) neuron excitability in the VTA and on DA transmission in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). We show that the ?4 subunit, but not the ?6 subunit, is necessary for ICSA and nicotine-induced bursting of VTA DAergic neurons, whereas subunits ?4 and ?6 together regulate the activity dependence of DA transmission in the NAc. These data suggest that ?4-dominated enhancement of burst firing in DA neurons, relayed by DA transmission in NAc that is gated by nAChRs containing ?4 and ?6 subunits, underlies nicotine self-administration and its long-term maintenance.
Project description:The activity of ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) neurons promotes behavioral responses to rewards and environmental stimuli that predict them. VTA GABA inputs synapse directly onto DA neurons and may regulate DA neuronal activity to alter reward-related behaviors; however, the functional consequences of selective activation of VTA GABA neurons remains unknown. Here, we show that in vivo optogenetic activation of VTA GABA neurons disrupts reward consummatory behavior but not conditioned anticipatory behavior in response to reward-predictive cues. In addition, direct activation of VTA GABA projections to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) resulted in detectable GABA release but did not alter reward consumption. Furthermore, optogenetic stimulation of VTA GABA neurons directly suppressed the activity and excitability of neighboring DA neurons as well as the release of DA in the NAc, suggesting that the dynamic interplay between VTA DA and GABA neurons can control the initiation and termination of reward-related behaviors.