Acetylcholine waves and dopamine release in the striatum
Striatal dopamine encodes reward, with recent work showing that dopamine release occurs in spatiotemporal waves. However, the mechanism of dopamine waves is unknown. Here we report that acetylcholine release in mouse striatum also exhibits wave activity, and that the spatial scale of striatal dopamine release is extended by nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Based on these findings, and on our demonstration that single cholinergic interneurons can induce dopamine release, we hypothesized that the local reciprocal interaction between cholinergic interneurons and dopamine axons suffices to drive endogenous traveling waves. We show that the morphological and physiological properties of cholinergic interneuron - dopamine axon interactions can be modeled as a reaction-diffusion system that gives rise to traveling waves. Analytically-tractable versions of the model show that the structure and the nature of propagation of acetylcholine and dopamine traveling waves depend on their coupling, and that traveling waves can give rise to empirically observed correlations between these signals. Thus, our study provides evidence for striatal acetylcholine waves in vivo, and proposes a testable theoretical framework that predicts that the observed dopamine and acetylcholine waves are strongly coupled phenomena.
Intrinsic dopamine and acetylcholine dynamics in the striatum of mice
External rewards such as food and money are potent modifiers of behaviour1,2. Pioneering studies established that these salient sensory stimuli briefly interrupt the tonic discharge of neurons that produce the neuromodulators dopamine (DA) and acetylcholine (ACh): midbrain DA neurons (DANs) fire a burst of action potentials that broadly elevates DA in the striatum3,4 at the same time that striatal cholinergic interneurons (CINs) produce a characteristic pause in firing5,6. These phasic responses are thought to create unique, temporally limited conditions that motivate action and promote learning7-11. However, the dynamics of DA and ACh outside explicitly rewarded situations remain poorly understood. Here we show that extracellular DA and ACh levels fluctuate spontaneously and periodically at a frequency of approximately 2 Hz in the dorsal striatum of mice and maintain the same temporal relationship relative to one another as that evoked by reward. We show that this neuromodulatory coordination does not arise from direct interactions between DA and ACh within the striatum. Instead, we provide evidence that periodic fluctuations in striatal DA are inherited from midbrain DANs, while striatal ACh transients are driven by glutamatergic inputs, which act to locally synchronize the spiking of CINs. Together, our findings show that striatal neuromodulatory dynamics are autonomously organized by distributed extra-striatal afferents. The dominance of intrinsic rhythms in DA and ACh offers new insights for explaining how reward-associated neural dynamics emerge and how the brain motivates action and promotes learning from within.
Cell-type-specific disruption of cortico-striatal circuitry drives repetitive patterns of behavior in fragile X syndrome model mice
Individuals with fragile X syndrome (FXS) are frequently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including increased risk for restricted and repetitive behaviors (RRBs). Consistent with observations in humans, FXS model mice display distinct RRBs and hyperactivity that are consistent with dysfunctional cortico-striatal circuits, an area relatively unexplored in FXS. Using a multidisciplinary approach, we dissect the contribution of two populations of striatal medium spiny neurons (SPNs) in the expression of RRBs in FXS model mice. Here, we report that dysregulated protein synthesis at cortico-striatal synapses is a molecular culprit of the synaptic and ASD-associated motor phenotypes displayed by FXS model mice. Cell-type-specific translational profiling of the FXS mouse striatum reveals differentially translated mRNAs, providing critical information concerning potential therapeutic targets. Our findings uncover a cell-type-specific impact of the loss of fragile X messenger ribonucleoprotein (FMRP) on translation and the sequence of neuronal events in the striatum that drive RRBs in FXS.
Unraveling the dynamics of dopamine release and its actions on target cells
The neuromodulator dopamine (DA) is essential for regulating learning, motivation, and movement. Despite its importance, however, the mechanisms by which DA influences the activity of target cells to alter behavior remain poorly understood. In this review, we describe recent methodological advances that are helping to overcome challenges that have historically hindered the field. We discuss how the employment of these methods is shedding light on the complex dynamics of extracellular DA in the brain, as well as how DA signaling alters the electrical, biochemical, and population activity of target neurons in vivo. These developments are generating novel hypotheses about the mechanisms through which DA release modifies behavior.
G protein-coupled receptors cooperate to silence dopamine neurons
Inhibitory co-transmission from midbrain dopamine neurons relies on presynaptic GABA uptake
Dopamine (DA)-releasing neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNcDA) inhibit target cells in the striatum through postsynaptic activation of Î³-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. However, the molecular mechanisms responsible for GABAergic signaling remain unclear, as SNcDA neurons lack enzymes typically required to produce GABA or package it into synaptic vesicles. Here, we show that aldehyde dehydrogenase 1a1 (Aldh1a1), an enzyme proposed to function as a GABA synthetic enzyme in SNcDA neurons, does not produce GABA for synaptic transmission. Instead, we demonstrate that SNcDA axons obtain GABA exclusively through presynaptic uptake using the membrane GABA transporter Gat1 (encoded by Slc6a1). GABA is then packaged for vesicular release using the vesicular monoamine transporter Vmat2. Our data therefore show that presynaptic transmitter recycling can substitute for de novo GABA synthesis and that Vmat2 contributes to vesicular GABA transport, expanding the range of molecular mechanisms available to neurons to support inhibitory synaptic communication.
Dopamine differentially modulates the size of projection neuron ensembles in the intact and dopamine-depleted striatum
Dopamine (DA) is a critical modulator of brain circuits that control voluntary movements, but our understanding of its influence on the activity of target neurons in vivo remains limited. Here, we use two-photon Ca2+ imaging to monitor the activity of direct and indirect-pathway spiny projection neurons (SPNs) simultaneously in the striatum of behaving mice during acute and prolonged manipulations of DA signaling. We find that increasing and decreasing DA biases striatal activity towards the direct and indirect pathways, respectively, by changing the overall number of SPNs recruited during behavior in a manner not predicted by existing models of DA function. This modulation is drastically altered in a model of Parkinson's disease. Our results reveal a previously unappreciated population-level influence of DA on striatal output and provide novel insights into the pathophysiology of Parkinson's disease.
How alcohol affects motor control: not your usual suspects
Posterior amygdala regulates sexual and aggressive behaviors in male mice
Sexual and aggressive behaviors are fundamental to animal survival and reproduction. The medial preoptic nucleus (MPN) and ventrolateral part of the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl) are essential regions for male sexual and aggressive behaviors, respectively. While key inhibitory inputs to the VMHvl and MPN have been identified, the extrahypothalamic excitatory inputs essential for social behaviors remain elusive. Here we identify estrogen receptor alpha (Esr1)-expressing cells in the posterior amygdala (PA) as a main source of excitatory inputs to the hypothalamus and key mediators for mating and fighting in male mice. We find two largely distinct PA subpopulations that differ in connectivity, gene expression, in vivo responses and social behavior relevance. MPN-projecting PAEsr1+ cells are activated during mating and are necessary and sufficient for male sexual behaviors, while VMHvl-projecting PAEsr1+ cells are excited during intermale aggression and promote attacks. These findings place the PA as a key node in both male aggression and reproduction circuits.
A Hypothalamic Midbrain Pathway Essential for Driving Maternal Behaviors
Maternal behaviors are essential for the survival of the young. Previous studies implicated the medial preoptic area (MPOA) as an important region for maternal behaviors, but details of the maternal circuit remain incompletely understood. Here we identify estrogen receptor alpha (Esr1)-expressing cells inÂ the MPOA as key mediators of pup approach andÂ retrieval. Reversible inactivation of MPOAEsr1+cells impairs those behaviors, whereas optogenetic activation induces immediate pup retrieval. InÂ vivo recordings demonstrate preferential activation of MPOAEsr1+cells during maternal behaviors and changes in MPOA cell responses across reproductive states. Furthermore, channelrhodopsin-assisted circuit mapping reveals a strong inhibitory projection from MPOAEsr1+cells to ventral tegmental area (VTA) non-dopaminergic cells. Pathway-specific manipulations reveal that this projection is essential for driving pup approach and retrieval and that VTA dopaminergic cells are reliably activated during those behaviors. Altogether, this study provides new insight into the neural circuit that generates maternal behaviors.