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Keywords:

  • dopamine;
  • LDTg;
  • PPTg;
  • reward;
  • substantia nigra;
  • ventral tegmental area

Abstract

The pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPTg) and laterodorsal tegmental nucleus (LDTg) provide cholinergic afferents to several brain areas. This cholinergic complex has been suggested to play a role in sleep, waking, motor function, learning and reward. To have a better understanding of the neurochemical organization of the PPTg/LDTg we characterized the phenotype of PPTg/LDTg neurons by determining in these cells the expression of transcripts encoding choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) or the vesicular glutamate transporters (vGluT1, vGluT2 and vGluT3). Within the PPTg/LDTg complex we found neurons expressing ChAT, vGluT2 or GAD transcripts, these neuronal phenotypes were intermingled, but not homogeneously distributed within the PPTg or LDTg. Previous studies suggested the presence of either glutamate or γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) immunolabeling in a large number of PPTg/LDTg cholinergic neurons, leading to the widespread notion that PPTg/LDTg cholinergic neurons co-release acetylcholine together with either glutamate or GABA. To assess the glutamatergic or GABAergic nature of the PPTg/LDTg cholinergic neurons, we combined in situ hybridization (to detect vGluT2 or GAD transcripts) and immunohistochemistry (to detect ChAT), and found that over 95% of all PPTg/LDTg cholinergic neurons lack transcripts encoding either vGluT2 mRNA or GAD mRNA. As the vast majority of PPTg/LDTg cholinergic neurons lack transcripts encoding essential proteins for the vesicular transport of glutamate or for the synthesis of GABA, co-release of acetylcholine with either glutamate or GABA is unlikely to be a major factor in the interactions between acetylcholine, glutamate and GABA at the postsynaptic site.