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Keywords:

  • acetylcholine;
  • immunotoxin;
  • in vivo voltammetry;
  • ventral striatum;
  • schizophrenia

Abstract

Depletion of cholinergic interneurons in the ventral striatum (nucleus accumbens or N.Acc.) in adult rats increases the locomotor activating effects of amphetamine. It also impairs sensorimotor gating processes, an effect reversed by the antipsychotic haloperidol. These behavioral effects are suggestive of pronounced hyper-responsiveness of the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) projection to the N.Acc. However, it is unclear whether local cholinergic depletion results predominantly in exaggerated presynaptic DA release or a postsynaptic upregulation of DAergic function. The purpose of the present study is to test the former possibility by employing in vivo voltammetry to examine changes in the levels of extracellular DA within the N.Acc. in response to either mild tail pinch stress or amphetamine administration. While both cholinergic-lesioned and control rats showed reliable stress-induced increases in extracellular DA on two consecutive test days, those in the lesioned rats were significantly less pronounced. In response to amphetamine, a separate cohort of lesioned rats also exhibited smaller increases in extracellular DA release than controls, despite showing greater locomotor activity. Moreover, the increased behavioral response to amphetamine in lesioned rats coincided temporally with decreasing levels of DA in the N.Acc. The results confirm that cholinergic depletion within the N.Acc. suppresses presynaptic DA release and suggest that lesion-induced behavioral effects are more likely due to postsynaptic DA receptor upregulation. The results are also discussed in the context of schizophrenia, where post mortem studies have revealed a selective loss of cholinergic interneurons within the ventral striatum. Synapse, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.