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J Neurosci. 2019 Jul 17;39(29):5647-5661. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0479-19.2019. Epub 2019 May 20.

Striatal Cholinergic Interneurons Are a Novel Target of Corticotropin Releasing Factor.

Author information

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,
Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Center on Compulsive Behaviors, Intramural Research Program, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, and.


Cholinergic interneurons (CINs) are critical regulators of striatal network activity and output. Changes in CIN activity are thought to encode salient changes in the environment and stimulus-response-outcome associations. Here we report that the stress-associated neuropeptide corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) produces a profound and reliable increase in the spontaneous firing of CINs in both dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens (NAc) through activation of CRF type 1 receptors, production of cAMP and reduction in spike accommodation in male mice. The increase of CIN firing by CRF results in the activation muscarinic acetylcholine receptors type 5, which mediate potentiation of dopamine transmission in the striatum. This study provides critical mechanistic insight into how CRF modulates striatal activity and dopamine transmission in the NAc to likely account for CRF facilitation of appetitive behaviors.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Although the presence of CRF receptors in the dorsal and ventral striatum has been acknowledged, the cellular identity and the functional consequences of receptor activation is unknown. Here we report that striatal cholinergic interneurons express CRF-R1 receptors and are acutely activated by the neuropeptide CRF that is released in response to salient environmental stimuli. Cholinergic interneurons make <1% of the cells in the striatum but are critical regulators of the striatal circuitry and its output. CRF's fast and potent activation of cholinergic interneurons could have far reaching behavioral implications across motivated behaviors controlled by the striatum.


acetylcholine; dopamine transmission; muscarinic receptors; nucleus accumbens; striatum

[Available on 2020-01-17]

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