The excitability of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra is controlled by the convergent activity of multiple glutamatergic afferents. Here, we show that vesicular glutamate transporter 3 (VGLUT3)-immunoreactive (ir) terminals segregate to the perisomatic region of DA neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta, and VGLUT3 decorates a synapse population distinct from those marked by vesicular glutamate transporters 1 and 2. VGLUT3-ir nerve endings form asymmetric terminals on DA neurons. Retrograde tracing suggests the superior colliculus as an origin of excitatory VGLUT3-ir afferents. Collectively, our data indicate that VGLUT3 identifies a novel excitatory terminal subset that contributes to the tuning of DA cell excitability in the substantia nigra.
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