GABA neurons of the VTA drive conditioned place aversion.
ABSTRACT: Salient but aversive stimuli inhibit the majority of dopamine (DA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and cause conditioned place aversion (CPA). The cellular mechanism underlying DA neuron inhibition has not been investigated and the causal link to behavior remains elusive. Here, we show that GABA neurons of the VTA inhibit DA neurons through neurotransmission at GABA(A) receptors. We also observe that GABA neurons increase their firing in response to a footshock and provide evidence that driving GABA neurons with optogenetic effectors is sufficient to affect behavior. Taken together, our data demonstrate that synaptic inhibition of DA neurons drives place aversion.
Project description:Evidence shows that the neurotransmitter dopamine mediates the rewarding effects of nicotine and other drugs of abuse, while nondopaminergic neural substrates mediate the negative motivational effects. ?2* nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) are necessary and sufficient for the experience of both nicotine reward and aversion in an intra-VTA (ventral tegmental area) self-administration paradigm. We selectively reexpressed ?2* nAChRs in VTA dopamine or VTA ?-amino-butyric acid (GABA) neurons in ?2-/- mice to double-dissociate the aversive and rewarding conditioned responses to nicotine in nondependent mice, revealing that ?2* nAChRs on VTA dopamine neurons mediate nicotine's conditioned aversive effects, while ?2* nAChRs on VTA GABA neurons mediate the conditioned rewarding effects in place-conditioning paradigms. These results stand in contrast to a purely dopaminergic reward theory, leading to a better understanding of the neurobiology of nicotine motivation and possibly to improved therapeutic treatments for smoking cessation.
Project description:The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is best known for its dopamine neurons, some of which project to nucleus accumbens (nAcc). However, the VTA also has glutamatergic neurons that project to nAcc. The function of the mesoaccumbens glutamatergic pathway remains unknown. Here we report that nAcc photoactivation of mesoaccumbens glutamatergic fibers promotes aversion. Although we found that these mesoaccumbens glutamatergic fibers lack GABA, the aversion evoked by their photoactivation depended on glutamate- and GABA-receptor signaling, and not on dopamine-receptor signaling. We found that mesoaccumbens glutamatergic fibers established multiple asymmetric synapses on single parvalbumin GABAergic interneurons and that nAcc photoactivation of these fibers drove AMPA-mediated cellular firing of parvalbumin GABAergic interneurons. These parvalbumin GABAergic interneurons in turn inhibited nAcc medium spiny output neurons, thereby controlling inhibitory neurotransmission in nAcc. To our knowledge, the mesoaccumbens glutamatergic pathway is the first glutamatergic input to nAcc shown to mediate aversion instead of reward, and the first pathway shown to establish excitatory synapses on nAcc parvalbumin GABAergic interneurons.
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.
Project description:Kappa-opioid receptors (KORs) are important for motivation and other medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC)-dependent behaviors. Although KORs are present in the mPFC, their role in regulating transmission in this brain region and their contribution to KOR-mediated aversion are not known. Using in vivo microdialysis in rats and mice, we demonstrate that intra-mPFC administration of the selective KOR agonist U69,593 decreased local dopamine (DA) overflow, while reverse dialysis of the KOR antagonist nor-Binaltorphimine (nor-BNI) enhanced mPFC DA overflow. Extracellular amino-acid levels were also affected by KORs, as U69,593 reduced glutamate and GABA levels driven by the glutamate reuptake blocker, l-trans-pyrrolidine-2,4-dicarboxylate. Whole-cell recordings from mPFC layer V pyramidal neurons revealed that U69,593 decreased the frequency, but not amplitude, of glutamatergic mini EPSPs. To determine whether KOR regulation of mPFC DA overflow was mediated by KOR on DA terminals, we utilized a Cre recombinase-driven mouse line lacking KOR in DA neurons. In these mice, basal DA release or uptake was unaltered relative to controls, but attenuation of mPFC DA overflow by local U69,593 was not observed, indicating KOR acts directly on mPFC DA terminals to locally inhibit DA levels. Conditioning procedures were then used to determine whether mPFC KOR signaling was necessary for KOR-mediated aversion. U69,593-mediated conditioned place aversion was blocked by intra-mPFC nor-BNI microinjection. These findings demonstrate that mPFC KORs negatively regulate DA and amino-acid neurotransmission, and are necessary for KOR-mediated aversion.
Project description:Dopamine (DA) neurons in the midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA) integrate complex inputs to encode multiple signals that influence motivated behaviors via diverse projections. Here, we combine axon-initiated viral transduction with rabies-mediated trans-synaptic tracing and Cre-based cell-type-specific targeting to systematically map input-output relationships of VTA-DA neurons. We found that VTA-DA (and VTA-GABA) neurons receive excitatory, inhibitory, and modulatory input from diverse sources. VTA-DA neurons projecting to different forebrain regions exhibit specific biases in their input selection. VTA-DA neurons projecting to lateral and medial nucleus accumbens innervate largely non-overlapping striatal targets, with the latter also sending extensive extra-striatal axon collaterals. Using electrophysiology and behavior, we validated new circuits identified in our tracing studies, including a previously unappreciated top-down reinforcing circuit from anterior cortex to lateral nucleus accumbens via VTA-DA neurons. This study highlights the utility of our viral-genetic tracing strategies to elucidate the complex neural substrates that underlie motivated behaviors.
Project description:Kappa-opioid receptor (KOR) agonists have dysphoric properties in humans and are aversive in rodents. This has been attributed to the activation of KORs within the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system. However, the role of DA in KOR-mediated aversion and stress remains divisive as recent studies have suggested that activation of KORs on serotonergic neurons may be sufficient to mediate aversive behaviors. To address this question, we used conditional knock-out (KO) mice with KORs deleted on DA neurons (DAT(Cre/wt)/KOR(loxp/loxp), or DATCre-KOR KO). In agreement with previous findings, control mice (DAT(Cre/wt)/KOR(wt/wt) or WT) showed conditioned place aversion (CPA) to the systemically administered KOR agonist U69,593. In contrast, DATCre-KOR KO mice did not exhibit CPA with this same agonist. In addition, in vivo microdialysis showed that systemic U69,593 decreased overflow of DA in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) in WT mice, but had no effect in DATCre-KOR KO mice. Intra- ventral tegmental area (VTA) delivery of KORs using an adeno-associated viral gene construct, resulted in phenotypic rescue of the KOR-mediated NAc DA response and aversive behavior in DATCre-KOR KO animals. These results provide evidence that KORs on VTA DA neurons are necessary to mediate KOR-mediated aversive behavior. Therefore, our data, along with recent findings, suggest that the neuronal mechanisms of KOR-mediated aversive behavior may include both dopaminergic and serotonergic components.
Project description:THIP (gaboxadol), a superagonist of the δ subunit-containing extrasynaptic GABAA receptors, produces persistent neuroplasticity in dopamine (DA) neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA), similarly to rewarding drugs of abuse. However, unlike them THIP lacks abuse potential and induces conditioned place aversion in mice. The mechanism underlying the aversive effects of THIP remains elusive. Here, we show that mild aversive effects of THIP were detected 2 h after administration likely reflecting an anxiety-like state with increased corticosterone release and with central recruitment of corticotropin-releasing factor corticotropin-releasing factor receptor 1 (CRF1) receptors. A detailed immunohistochemical c-Fos expression mapping for THIP-activated brain areas revealed a correlation between the activation of CRF-expressing neurons in the oval nucleus of the bed nuclei of stria terminalis and THIP-induced aversive effects. In addition, the neuroplasticity of mesolimbic DA system (24 h after administration) and conditioned place aversion by THIP after four daily acute sessions were dependent on extrasynaptic GABAA receptors (abolished in δ-GABAA receptor knockout mice) and activation of the CRF1 receptors (abolished in wildtype mice by a CRF1 receptor antagonist). A selective THIP-induced activation of CRF-expressing neurons in the oval part of the bed nucleus of stria terminalis may constitute a novel mechanism for inducing plasticity in a population of VTA DA neurons and aversive behavioral states.
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:Reward-related behavior is complex and its dysfunction correlated with neuropsychiatric illness. Dopamine (DA) neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) have long been associated with different aspects of reward function, but it remains to be disentangled how distinct VTA DA neurons contribute to the full range of behaviors ascribed to the VTA. Here, a recently identified subtype of VTA neurons molecularly defined by NeuroD6 (NEX1M) was addressed. Among all VTA DA neurons, less than 15% were identified as positive for NeuroD6. In addition to dopaminergic markers, sparse NeuroD6 neurons expressed the vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (Vglut2) gene. To achieve manipulation of NeuroD6 VTA neurons, NeuroD6(NEX)-Cre-driven mouse genetics and optogenetics were implemented. First, expression of vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) was ablated to disrupt dopaminergic function in NeuroD6 VTA neurons. Comparing Vmat2lox/lox;NEX-Cre conditional knock-out (cKO) mice with littermate controls, it was evident that baseline locomotion, preference for sugar and ethanol, and place preference upon amphetamine-induced and cocaine-induced conditioning were similar between genotypes. However, locomotion upon repeated psychostimulant administration was significantly elevated above control levels in cKO mice. Second, optogenetic activation of NEX-Cre VTA neurons was shown to induce DA release and glutamatergic postsynaptic currents within the nucleus accumbens. Third, optogenetic stimulation of NEX-Cre VTA neurons in vivo induced significant place preference behavior, while stimulation of VTA neurons defined by Calretinin failed to cause a similar response. The results show that NeuroD6 VTA neurons exert distinct regulation over specific aspects of reward-related behavior, findings that contribute to the current understanding of VTA neurocircuitry.
Project description:Ventral tegmental area (VTA) neurons play roles in reward and aversion. We recently discovered that the VTA has neurons that co-transmit glutamate and GABA (glutamate-GABA co-transmitting neurons), transmit glutamate without GABA (glutamate-transmitting neurons), or transmit GABA without glutamate (GABA-transmitting neurons). However, the functions of these VTA cell types in motivated behavior are unclear. To identify the functions of these VTA cell types, we combine recombinase mouse lines with INTRSECT2.0 vectors to selectively target these neurons. We find that VTA cell types have unique signaling patterns for reward, aversion, and learned cues. Whereas VTA glutamate-transmitting neurons signal cues predicting reward, VTA GABA-transmitting neurons signal cues predicting the absence of reward, and glutamate-GABA co-transmitting neurons signal rewarding and aversive outcomes without signaling learned cues related to those outcomes. Thus, we demonstrate that genetically defined subclasses of VTA glutamate and GABA neurons signal different aspects of motivated behavior.