Combined In Vivo Anatomical and Functional Tracing of Ventral Tegmental Area Glutamate Terminals in the Hippocampus

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Optogenetic modulation of neuron sub-populations in the brain has allowed researchers to dissect neural circuits in vivo and ex vivo. This provides a premise for determining the role of neuron types within a neural circuit, and their significance in information encoding relative to learning. Likewise, the method can be used to test the physiological significance of two or more connected brain regions in awake and anesthetized animals. The current study demonstrates how VTA glutamate neurons modulate the firing rate of putative pyramidal neurons in the CA1 (hippocampus) of anesthetized mice. This protocol employs adeno-associated virus (AAV)-dependent labeling of VTA glutamate neurons for the tracing of VTA presynaptic glutamate terminals in the layers of the hippocampus. Expression of light-controlled opsin (channelrhodopsin; hChR2) and fluorescence protein (eYFP) harbored by the AAV vector permitted anterograde tracing of VTA glutamate terminals, and photostimulation of VTA glutamate neuron cell bodies (in the VTA). High-impedance acute silicon electrodes were positioned in the CA1 to detect multi-unit and single-unit responses to VTA photostimulation in vivo. The results of this study demonstrate the layer-dependent distribution of presynaptic VTA glutamate terminals in the hippocampus (CA1, CA3, and DG). Also, the photostimulation of VTA glutamate neurons increased the firing and burst rate of putative CA1 pyramidal units in vivo.

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Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE

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