Circuit-specific signaling of ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons drives different aspects of motivated behavior, but the neuromodulatory control of these circuits is unclear. We tested the actions of co-expressed lateral hypothalamic peptides, orexin A (oxA) and dynorphin (dyn), on projection-target-defined dopamine neurons in mice. We determined that VTA dopamine neurons that project to the nucleus accumbens lateral shell (lAcbSh), medial shell (mAcbSh), and basolateral amygdala (BLA) are largely non-overlapping cell populations with different electrophysiological properties. Moreover, the neuromodulatory effects of oxA and dyn on these three projections differed. OxA selectively increased firing in lAcbSh- and mAcbSh-projecting dopamine neurons. Dyn decreased firing in the majority of mAcbSh- and BLA-projecting dopamine neurons but reduced firing only in a small fraction of those that project to the lAcbSh. In conclusion, the oxA-dyn input to the VTA may drive reward-seeking behavior by tuning dopaminergic output in a projection-target-dependent manner.
Baimel, C., Lau, B. K., Qiao, M., & Borgland, S. L. (2017). Projection-Target-Defined Effects of Orexin and Dynorphin on VTA Dopamine Neurons. Cell Reports, 18(6), 1346–1355. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2017.01.030