J. Neurochem. (2010) 114, 150–159.
A previous study from our laboratory demonstrated the presence within the rat striatum of dopaminergic terminals in different dynamical states, determined at least in part by the extent to which terminals are subject to autoinhibition. The present study is designed to test the hypothesis that heterogeneity in the basal tonic extracellular dopamine concentration contributes to the variable extent of autoinhibition. We probed basal extracellular dopamine concentrations using a previously demonstrated strategy that utilizes intrastriatal microinfusion of kynurenate, a substance that according to voltammetric measurements decreases extracellular dopamine from its basal concentration. In the striatum, however, we find that the response to kynurenate infusion is itself heterogeneous, allowing a broad classification of sites within the striatum as kynurenate-insensitive and kynurenate-sensitive, respectively. These newly identified kynurenate-insensitive and sensitive sites yield substantially and significantly different evoked dopamine release as measured by voltammetry during electrical stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle. Our findings confirm the hypothesis that heterogeneity in the local basal concentration of dopamine is responsible for the variable extent of autoinhibition within the striatum and support the conclusion that the steady state and dynamical components of extracellular dopamine in this brain region are coupled.