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Keywords:

  • basal ganglia;
  • globus pallidus;
  • entopeduncular nucleus;
  • substantia nigra pars reticulata;
  • NMDA receptors;
  • intracerebral microinjections

Abstract

Overactivity of the excitatory amino acid outputs of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) has recently been found to be one of the cascade of subsequent disruptions caused by nigrostriatal dopaminergic degeneration in Parkinson's disease. The respective contribution of the excitatory glutamatergic output structures of the STN [i.e. the globus pallidus (GP), entopeduncular nucleus (EP) and substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr)] to the control of movement is not known, however. To investigate further the function of glutamatergic transmission through NMDA receptor subtypes in these three structures, the effects of discrete local infusion of a competitive receptor antagonist, DL-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (APV), into the EP, GP and SNr were tested in rats performing a reaction time task. Bilateral infusion of APV into the different output structures of the STN differentially impaired the performance of rats trained to release a lever after the onset of a visual stimulus within a time limit to obtain a food reward. Infusion of APV (0.25 and 0.5 μg/0.5 μl) into the SNr was found to induce behavioural deficits characterized by a dramatic increase in the number of premature lever releases and decreased mean reaction time. In contrast, the infusion of APV at a dose of 0.25 μg into the GP or EP was found to induce a motor initiation deficit characterized by an increased number of delayed responses (lever release after the time limit) and increased mean reaction time. At a dose of 0.5 μg, a premature responding deficit was added to the previous motor impairment. Interestingly, when APV was infused simultaneously into the GP and SNr in the same animals, the behavioural effects tended to be similar to those observed after a single infusion into the SNr. Altogether, these results reveal that the different functional weight of the three main output pathways originating at the STN level is t.o. The behavioural deficits induced by NMDA receptor blockade in the SNr were similar to those observed previously after a neurotoxic lesion of the STN, suggesting that NMDA receptors in this structure play a major role as a functional output of the STN. Furthermore, regarding the differential effects produced by the same dose of APV in the SNr and the EP, these two structures, which are classically believed to be functionally linked should not be considered as the same functional entity in the organization of basal ganglia outflow.