Operant responding for optogenetic excitation of LDTg inputs to the VTA requires D1 and D2 dopamine receptor activation in the NAcc

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Behavioral studies in rats and mice indicate that laterodorsal tegmental nucleus (LDTg) inputs to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) importantly contribute to reward function. Further evidence from anesthetized rat and mouse preparations suggests that these LTDg inputs may exert this effect by regulating mesolimbic dopamine (DA) signaling. Direct evidence supporting this possibility remains lacking however. To address this lack, rat LDTg neurons were transfected with adeno-associated viral vectors encoding channelrhodopsin2 and eYFP (ChR2) or eYFP alone (eYFP) and rats were subsequently trained to lever press for intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) of the inputs of these neurons to the VTA. First, we found that DA overflow in the forebrain nucleus accumbens (NAcc) increased maximally during ICSS to approximately 240% of baseline levels in ChR2, but not in eYFP, rats. Based on these findings, we next tested the contribution of NAcc D1 and D2 DA receptors to the reinforcing effects of optogenetic excitation of LDTg inputs to the VTA. Microinjecting SCH23390 or raclopride, D1 and D2 DA receptor antagonists respectively, into the NAcc significantly reduced operant responding for this stimulation. Together these results demonstrate for the first time that optogenetic ICSS of LDTg inputs to the VTA increases DA overflow in the NAcc and requires activation of D1 and D2 DA receptors in this site.

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