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Elife. 2017 Oct 5;6. pii: e30352. doi: 10.7554/eLife.30352.

Pedunculopontine glutamatergic neurons control spike patterning in substantia nigra dopaminergic neurons.

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Department of Physiology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, United States.
Department of Pharmacology, Emory University, Atlanta, United States.


Burst spiking in substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) dopaminergic neurons is a key signaling event in the circuitry controlling goal-directed behavior. It is widely believed that this spiking mode depends upon an interaction between synaptic activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) and intrinsic oscillatory mechanisms. However, the role of specific neural networks in burst generation has not been defined. To begin filling this gap, SNc glutamatergic synapses arising from pedunculopotine nucleus (PPN) neurons were characterized using optical and electrophysiological approaches. These synapses were localized exclusively on the soma and proximal dendrites, placing them in a good location to influence spike generation. Indeed, optogenetic stimulation of PPN axons reliably evoked spiking in SNc dopaminergic neurons. Moreover, burst stimulation of PPN axons was faithfully followed, even in the presence of NMDAR antagonists. Thus, PPN-evoked burst spiking of SNc dopaminergic neurons in vivo may not only be extrinsically triggered, but extrinsically patterned as well.


basal ganglia; burst firing; dopamine; glutamate; mouse; neuroscience; pedunculopontine nucleus

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