Send to

Choose Destination
J Physiol. 2008 Apr 15;586(8):2157-70. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2007.150078. Epub 2008 Feb 28.

Corticotropin-releasing factor increases mouse ventral tegmental area dopamine neuron firing through a protein kinase C-dependent enhancement of Ih.

Author information

Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, 5858 Horton St, Suite 200, Emeryville, CA 94608, USA.


Stress induces the release of the peptide corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) into the ventral tegmental area (VTA), and also increases dopamine levels in brain regions receiving dense VTA input. Therefore, stress may activate the mesolimbic dopamine system in part through the actions of CRF in the VTA. Here, we explored the mechanism by which CRF affects VTA dopamine neuron firing. Using patch-clamp recordings from brain slices we first determined that the presence of I(h) is an excellent predictor of dopamine content in mice. We next showed that CRF dose-dependently increased VTA dopamine neuron firing, which was prevented by antagonism of the CRF receptor-1 (CRF-R1), and was mimicked by CRF-R1 agonists. Inhibition of the phospholipase C (PLC)-protein kinase C (PKC) signalling pathway, but not the cAMP-protein kinase A (PKA) signalling pathway, prevented the increase in dopamine neuron firing by CRF. Furthermore, the effect of CRF on VTA dopamine neurons was not attenuated by blockade of I(A), I(K(Ca)) or I(Kir), but was completely eliminated by inhibition of I(h). Although cAMP-dependent modulation of I(h) through changes in the voltage dependence of activation is well established, we surprisingly found that CRF, through a PKC-dependent mechanism, enhanced I(h) independent of changes in the voltage dependence of activation. Thus, our results demonstrated that CRF acted on the CRF-R1 to stimulate the PLC-PKC signalling pathway, which in turn enhanced I(h) to increase VTA dopamine neuron firing. These findings provide a cellular mechanism of the interaction between CRF and dopamine, which can be involved in promoting the avoidance of threatening stimuli, the pursuit of appetitive behaviours, as well as various psychiatric conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center