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Neurochem Res. 2015 Dec;40(12):2600-14. doi: 10.1007/s11064-015-1574-5. Epub 2015 Apr 17.

Volume Transmission in Central Dopamine and Noradrenaline Neurons and Its Astroglial Targets.

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Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, 17177, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, 41100, Modena, Italy.
Dipartimento di Farmacia, Sezione di Farmacologia e Tossicologia, Università di Genova, Viale Cembrano 4, 16148, Genoa, Italy.
Center of Excellence for Biomedical Research, Università di Genova, Viale Benedetto XV 5, 16132, Genoa, Italy.
Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, 17177, Stockholm, Sweden.


Already in the 1960s the architecture and pharmacology of the brainstem dopamine (DA) and noradrenaline (NA) neurons with formation of vast numbers of DA and NA terminal plexa of the central nervous system (CNS) indicated that they may not only communicate via synaptic transmission. In the 1980s the theory of volume transmission (VT) was introduced as a major communication together with synaptic transmission in the CNS. VT is an extracellular and cerebrospinal fluid transmission of chemical signals like transmitters, modulators etc. moving along energy gradients making diffusion and flow of VT signals possible. VT interacts with synaptic transmission mainly through direct receptor-receptor interactions in synaptic and extrasynaptic heteroreceptor complexes and their signaling cascades. The DA and NA neurons are specialized for extrasynaptic VT at the soma-dendrtitic and terminal level. The catecholamines released target multiple DA and adrenergic subtypes on nerve cells, astroglia and microglia which are the major cell components of the trophic units building up the neural-glial networks of the CNS. DA and NA VT can modulate not only the strength of synaptic transmission but also the VT signaling of the astroglia and microglia of high relevance for neuron-glia interactions. The catecholamine VT targeting astroglia can modulate the fundamental functions of astroglia observed in neuroenergetics, in the Glymphatic system, in the central renin-angiotensin system and in the production of long-distance calcium waves. Also the astrocytic and microglial DA and adrenergic receptor subtypes mediating DA and NA VT can be significant drug targets in neurological and psychiatric disease.


Adrenergic receptors; Astroglia; Catecholamine neurons; Dopamine receptors; Neuron–glia interactions; Volume transmission

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