We previously showed that chronic psychostimulant exposure induces the transcription factor DeltaFosB in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic neurons of the caudal tier of the ventral tegmental area (VTA). This subregion was defined as the tail of the VTA (tVTA). In the present study, we showed that tVTA can also be visualized by analyzing FosB/DeltaFosB response following acute cocaine injection. This induction occurs in GABAergic neurons, as identified by glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) expression. To characterize tVTA further, we mapped its inputs by using the retrograde tracers Fluoro-Gold or cholera toxin B subunit. Retrogradely labeled neurons were observed in the medial prefrontal cortex, the lateral septum, the ventral pallidum, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, the substantia innominata, the medial and lateral preoptic areas, the lateral and dorsal hypothalamic areas, the lateral habenula, the intermediate layers of the superior colliculus, the dorsal raphe, the periaqueductal gray, and the mesencephalic and pontine reticular formation. Projections from the prefrontal cortex, the hypothalamus, and the lateral habenula to the tVTA were also shown by using the anterograde tracer biotinylated dextran amine (BDA). We showed that the central nucleus of the amygdala innervates the anterior extent of the VTA but not the tVTA. Moreover, the tVTA mainly receives non-aminergic inputs from the dorsal raphe and the locus coeruleus. Although the tVTA has a low density of dopaminergic neurons, its afferents are mostly similar to those targeting the rest of the VTA. This suggests that the tVTA can be considered as a VTA subregion despite its caudal location.
2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.