Cholinergic neurons of the pontine laterodorsal tegmentum (LDT) are importantly involved in neurobiological mechanisms governing states of arousal such as sleep and wakefulness as well as other appetitive behaviors, such as drug-seeking. Accordingly, mechanisms controlling their excitability are important to elucidate if we are to understand how these LDT neurons generate arousal states. Glutamate mediates the vast majority of excitatory synaptic transmission in the vertebrate CNS and while presence of glutamate input in the LDT has been shown and ionotropic responses to glutamate have been reported in the LDT, characterization of metabotropic responses is lacking. Therefore, electrophysiological responses and changes in levels of intracellular Ca2+ in mouse cholinergic LDT neurons following application of specific mGluR agonists and antagonists were examined. Unexpectedly, both the mGluR5specific agonist, CHPG, and the group II mGluR (mGlu2/3) agonist, LY379268 (LY), induced a TTX-insensitive outward current/hyperpolarization. Both outward currents were significantly reduced by the mGluR antagonist MCPG and the CHPG-induced current was blocked by the specific mGluR5 antagonist MTEP. Concurrent Ca2+imaging revealed that while CHPG actions did include release of Ca2+ from CPA/thapsigargin-sensitive intracellular stores, actions of LY did not. Both CHPG- and LY-induced outward currents were mediated by a TEA-sensitive potassium conductance. The large-conductance, Ca2+-dependent potassium (BK) channel blocker, iberiotoxin, attenuated CHPG actions. Consistent with actions on the BK conductance, CHPG enhanced the amplitude of the fast component of the after hyperpolarizing potential, concurrent with a reduction in the firing rate. We conclude that stimulation of mGluR5 and group II (mGluR2/3) elicits postsynaptically-mediated outward currents/hyperpolarizations in cholinergic LDT neurons. Effects of glutamatergic input would be, thus, expected not only to be excitation via stimulation of ionotropic glutamate receptors and mGluR1, but also inhibition via actions at mGluR5 and mGluR2/3 on these neurons. As these two processes counteract each other, these surprising findings necessitate revision of predictions regarding the net level of excitation generated by glutamate input to cholinergic LDT cells and, by extension, the functional outcome of glutamate transmission on processes which these neurons regulate.
This article is part of a Special Issue entitled ‘Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors’.