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J Neurophysiol. 1999 Sep;82(3):1632-7.

Arrhythmic firing in dopamine neurons of rat substantia nigra evoked by activation of subthalamic neurons.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


Intracellular recordings were made from dopaminergic neurons of the rat substantia nigra compacta (SNc) in in vitro slice preparations to study the synaptic influence from the subthalamic nucleus (STh). After microstimulation of STh, monosynaptic excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) were produced in dopaminergic neurons. STh-induced EPSPs were composed of 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxalene-2,3-dione- and 2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid-sensitive components. Subthreshold EPSPs evoked by STh stimulation could differentially trigger pacemaker-like slow depolarization (PLSD) and low-threshold Ca2+ spike (LTS) depending on the level of baseline membrane potentials. When a subthreshold EPSP was evoked by STh stimulation during rhythmic firing, the STh-induced EPSP could shift or elevate PLSD to a more depolarized level, resulting in generation of a spike at an earlier arrhythmic timing to restart the rhythmic firing. The interspike interval after the arrhythmic spike remained almost unchanged. In contrast, when a suprathreshold EPSP for evoking spikes was produced by STh stimulation during rhythmic firing, the STh-induced spike was just interposed between two spontaneous spikes the interspike interval of which was almost the same as those seen during the preceding rhythmic firing. This ectopically induced spike did not disturb or reset rhythmic firing. It was concluded that SNc dopaminergic neurons receive monosynaptic glutamatergic inputs from STh, and subthreshold and suprathreshold EPSPs evoked by STh stimulations can induce two types of arrhythmic firing in SNc dopaminergic neurons, similar to arrhythmic occurrences of the QRS complex seen in the electrocardiogram of the atrial and ventricular arrhythmias, respectively. The former arrhythmic firing may play a crucial role in desynchronization of dopaminergic neurons.

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