Synapses between corticotropin-releasing factor-containing axon terminals and dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area are predominantly glutamatergic.
ABSTRACT Interactions between stress and the mesocorticolimbic dopamine (DA) system have been suggested from behavioral and electrophysiological studies. Because corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) plays a role in stress responses, we investigated possible interactions between neurons containing CRF and those producing DA in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). We first investigated the cellular distribution of CRF in the VTA by immunolabeling VTA sections with anti-CRF antibodies and analyzing these sections by electron microscopy. We found CRF immunoreactivity present mostly in axon terminals establishing either symmetric or asymmetric synapses with VTA dendrites. We established that nearly all CRF asymmetric synapses are glutamatergic, insofar as the CRF-immunolabeled axon terminals in these synapses coexpressed the vesicular glutamate transporter 2, and that the majority of CRF symmetric synapses are GABAergic, insofar as the CRF-immunolabeled axon terminals in these synapses coexpressed glutamic acid decarboxylase, findings that are of functional importance. We then looked for synaptic interactions between CRF- and DA-containing neurons, by using antibodies against CRF and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH; a marker for DA neurons). We found that most synapses between CRF-immunoreactive axon terminals and TH neurons are asymmetric (in the majority likely to be glutamatergic) and suggest that glutamatergic neurons containing CRF may be part of the neuronal circuitry that mediates stress responses involving the mesocorticolimbic DA system. The presence of CRF synapses in the VTA offers a mechanism for interactions between the stress-associated neuropeptide CRF and the mesocorticolimbic DA system.
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ABSTRACT: Allostasis, originally conceptualized to explain persistent morbidity of arousal and autonomic function, is defined as the process of achieving stability through physiological or behavioral change. Two types of biological processes have been proposed to describe the mechanisms underlying allostasis in drug addiction, a within-system adaptation and a between-system adaptation. In the within-system process, the drug elicits an opposing, neutralizing reaction within the same system in which the drug elicits its primary and unconditioned reinforcing actions, while in the between-system process, different neurobiological systems that the one initially activated by the drug are recruited. In this review, we will focus our interest on alterations in the dopaminergic and corticotropin releasing factor systems as within-system and between-system neuroadaptations respectively, that underlie the opponent process to drugs of abuse. We hypothesize that repeated compromised activity in the dopaminergic system and sustained activation of the CRF-CRF1R system with withdrawal episodes may lead to an allostatic load contributing significantly to the transition to drug addiction.Physiology & Behavior 11/2011; 106(1):58-64. · 2.87 Impact Factor