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Keywords:

  • AP-7;
  • competitive glutamatergic antagonists;
  • DNQX;
  • dopaminergic D2 receptors;
  • reward;
  • sulpiride;
  • ventral tegmental area

Abstract

In order to study the functional role of the trans-synaptic neuronal interaction between glutamatergic afferents and mesolimbic dopaminergic neurons in internal reward processes, BALB/c male mice were unilaterally implanted with a guide-cannula, the tip of which was positioned 1.5 mm above the ventral tegmental area (VTA). On each day of the following experimental period, a stainless steel injection cannula was inserted into the VTA in order to study the eventual self-administration behaviour of either the competitive N-methyl- d-aspartate antagonist, d(–)-2-amino-7-phosphonoheptanoic acid (AP-7) or the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-isoxazole-4-propionic acid antagonist, 6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (DNQX) (3 ng/50 nL) using a spatial discrimination task in a Y maze. Mice rapidly discriminated between the arm enabling a microinjection of either of these glutamatergic antagonists and the neutral arm of the maze, and a robust self-administration of either of these compounds was observed from the first session of acquisition. These data provide strong evidence that the intra-VTA microinjection of either of these subclasses of glutamatergic antagonist produces an effect which is interpreted centrally by the experimental subjects as being highly rewarding. Once the self-administration response had been fully acquired by the experimental subjects, preinjection of the dopaminergic D2 antagonist, sulpiride (50 mg/kg i.p.), 30 min before the test, produced a rapid extinction of the self-administration response. This latter result demonstrates the dopaminergic D2 receptor dependence of this intra-VTA self-administration of both of these subclasses of glutamatergic antagonist. We conclude that the different glutamatergic afferent neuronal inputs to the VTA globally exert, in vivo, via the mediation of interposed endogenous GABAergic interneurons, a tonic trans-synaptic inhibitory regulation of neuronal activity in the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway and that this complex neuronal interaction in the VTA plays a significant functional part in the modulation of internal reward processes.