The ventral tegmental area (VTA) plays an important role in reward and motivational processes involved in drug addiction. Previous studies have shown that alpha1-adrenoreceptors (α1-AR) are primarily found pre-synaptically at this area. We hypothesized that GABA released onto VTA-dopamine (DA) cells is modulated by pre-synaptic α1-AR. Recordings were obtained from putative VTA-DA cells of male Sprague–Dawley rats (28–50 days postnatal) using whole-cell voltage clamp technique. Phenylephrine (10 μM; α1-AR agonist) decreased the amplitude of GABAA receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) evoked by electrical stimulation of afferent fibers (n = 7; p < 0.05). Prazosin (1 μM, α1-AR antagonist), blocked this effect. Paired-pulse ratios were increased by phenylephrine application (n = 13; p < 0.05) indicating a presynaptic site of action. Spontaneous IPSCs frequency but not amplitude, were decreased in the presence of phenylephrine (n = 7; p < 0.05). However, frequency or amplitude of miniature IPSCs were not changed (n = 9; p > 0.05). Phenylephrine in low Ca2+ (1 mM) medium decreased IPSC amplitude (n = 7; p < 0.05). Chelerythrine (a protein kinase C inhibitor) blocked the α1-AR action on IPSC amplitude (n = 6; p < 0.05). Phenylephrine failed to decrease IPSCs amplitude in the presence of paxilline, a BK channel blocker (n = 7; p < 0.05). Taken together, these results demonstrate that α1-ARs at presynaptic terminals can modulate GABA release onto VTA-DA cells. Drug-induced changes in α1-AR could contribute to the modifications occurring in the VTA during the addiction process.
This article is part of the Special Issue entitled ‘GABAergic Signaling in Health and Disease’.