Laterodorsal tegmental projections to identified cell populations in the rat ventral tegmental area

J Comp Neurol. 2005 Mar 7;483(2):217-35. doi: 10.1002/cne.20417.


Projections from the laterodorsal tegmentum (LDT) to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) contribute to the activity of dopamine (DA) and GABA cells and, hence, to the affective and cognitive functions of this region. LDT afferents arise from neurochemically diverse cell types and mediate multiple functional influences. However, the VTA cell populations that receive LDT afferents are unknown and were investigated here by anterograde and retrograde tract-tracing in combination with immunocytochemistry to distinguish DA and GABA cells. Approximately 50% of the LDT to VTA pathway formed asymmetric, presumably excitatory synapses that innervated DA and GABA cells in rough proportion to their representation within the VTA. This portion of the LDT innervation appeared to selectively target DA but not GABA mesoaccumbens neurons and provide a relatively nonselective input to both DA and GABA mesoprefrontal cells. The remaining LDT axons formed symmetric, presumably inhibitory synapses with a different pattern of cellular targets that included a preferential input to GABA neurons of both mesoaccumbens and mesoprefrontal populations and an apparently selective innervation of mesoprefrontal and not mesoaccumbens DA neurons. These data suggest that the LDT mediates a convergent excitatory and inhibitory influence on both mesoprefrontal DA and GABA cells but a divergent impact on mesoaccumbens neurons that is likely to excite DA cells and inhibit GABA neurons. Combined with our previous description of prefrontal cortical afferents, our data also indicate that mesoaccumbens DA neurons receive putative excitatory drive from the LDT, whereas mesoprefrontal DA cells receive convergent excitation from both cortical and brainstem sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cholinergic Fibers / metabolism
  • Dextrans
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / ultrastructure*
  • Pons / physiology
  • Pons / ultrastructure*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stilbamidines
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / physiology
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / ultrastructure*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / ultrastructure*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • 2-hydroxy-4,4'-diamidinostilbene, methanesulfonate salt
  • Dextrans
  • Stilbamidines
  • biotinylated dextran amine
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Biotin
  • Acetylcholine
  • Dopamine