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Folia Histochem Cytobiol. 2004;42(2):83-7.

The relationships between neurons containing dopamine and nitric oxide synthase in the ventral tegmental area.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Medical University, Gdańsk, Poland.


Ventral tegmental area (VTA) is a heterogeneous group of dopaminergic cells which contains interfascicular (IF), parabrachial (PBP) and rostral linear (RLi) nuclei. Neurons of this area are involved in the regulation of motor and motivational aspects of behavior and reveal high neuronal plasticity. Among many various neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, nitric oxide (NO) is localized in this region. In the present study, we investigated morphology and distribution of nitric oxide synthase (NOS)-positive neurons in VTA and their colocalization with dopaminergic neurons. The study was performed on six adult Wistar rats. After perfusional fixation, the brains were cut, immunostained for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and NOS and studied by confocal laser microscopy. In each of the three studied nuclei of VTA we investigated three different neuronal populations. Numerous TH-immunoreactive (TH-ir) and NOS-immunoreactive (NOS-ir) neurons are present in the studied region. Among them, a considerable number showed coexistence of both neurotransmitters. The populations of TH-ir and NOS-ir neurons interact with each other as manifested by the presence of NOS-ir endings on TH-ir neurons and vice versa. Taking the above into account, it may be suspected that NO is involved in the modulation of dopaminergic transmission.

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