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PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e20508. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020508. Epub 2011 Jun 7.

5-HT(2C) receptors localize to dopamine and GABA neurons in the rat mesoaccumbens pathway.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Center for Addiction Research, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, United States of America.


The serotonin 5-HT(2C) receptor (5-HT(2C)R) is localized to the limbic-corticostriatal circuit, which plays an integral role in mediating attention, motivation, cognition, and reward processes. The 5-HT(2C)R is linked to modulation of mesoaccumbens dopamine neurotransmission via an activation of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). However, we recently demonstrated the expression of the 5-HT(2C)R within dopamine VTA neurons suggesting the possibility of a direct influence of the 5-HT(2C)R upon mesoaccumbens dopamine output. Here, we employed double-label fluorescence immunochemistry with the synthetic enzymes for dopamine (tyrosine hydroxylase; TH) and GABA (glutamic acid decarboxylase isoform 67; GAD-67) and retrograde tract tracing with FluoroGold (FG) to uncover whether dopamine and GABA VTA neurons that possess 5-HT(2C)R innervate the nucleus accumbens (NAc). The highest numbers of FG-labeled cells were detected in the middle versus rostral and caudal levels of the VTA, and included a subset of TH- and GAD-67 immunoreactive cells, of which >50% also contained 5-HT(2C)R immunoreactivity. Thus, we demonstrate for the first time that the 5-HT(2C)R colocalizes in DA and GABA VTA neurons which project to the NAc, describe in detail the distribution of NAc-projecting GABA VTA neurons, and identify the colocalization of TH and GAD-67 in the same NAc-projecting VTA neurons. These data suggest that the 5-HT(2C)R may exert direct influence upon both dopamine and GABA VTA output to the NAc. Further, the indication that a proportion of NAc-projecting VTA neurons synthesize and potentially release both dopamine and GABA adds intriguing complexity to the framework of the VTA and its postulated neuroanatomical roles.

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