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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e42365. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042365. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

Identification of rat ventral tegmental area GABAergic neurons.

Author information

1
Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, University of California San Francisco, Emeryville, California, United States of America. elyssam@gallo.ucsf.edu

Abstract

The canonical two neuron model of opioid reward posits that mu opioid receptor (MOR) activation produces reward by disinhibiting midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons through inhibition of local GABAergic interneurons. Although indirect evidence supports the neural circuit postulated by this model, its validity has been called into question by growing evidence for VTA neuronal heterogeneity and the recent demonstration that MOR agonists inhibit GABAergic terminals in the VTA arising from extrinsic neurons. In addition, VTA MOR reward can be dopamine-independent. To directly test the assumption that MOR activation directly inhibits local GABAergic neurons, we investigated the properties of rat VTA GABA neurons directly identified with either immunocytochemistry for GABA or GAD65/67, or in situ hybridization for GAD65/67 mRNA. Utilizing co-labeling with an antibody for the neural marker NeuN and in situ hybridization against GAD65/67, we found that 23±3% of VTA neurons are GAD65/67(+). In contrast to the assumptions of the two neuron model, VTA GABAergic neurons are heterogeneous, both physiologically and pharmacologically. Importantly, only 7/13 confirmed VTA GABA neurons were inhibited by the MOR selective agonist DAMGO. Interestingly, all confirmed VTA GABA neurons were insensitive to the GABA(B) receptor agonist baclofen (0/6 inhibited), while all confirmed dopamine neurons were inhibited (19/19). The heterogeneity of opioid responses we found in VTA GABAergic neurons, and the fact that GABA terminals arising from neurons outside the VTA are inhibited by MOR agonists, make further studies essential to determine the local circuit mechanisms underlying VTA MOR reward.

PMID:
22860119
PMCID:
PMC3409171
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0042365
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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