Characterization of the dopamine system in the brain of the túngara frog, Physalaemus pustulosus

Brain Behav Evol. 2010;76(3-4):211-25. doi: 10.1159/000321715. Epub 2010 Nov 23.


Dopamine is an evolutionarily ancient neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in mediating behavior. In vertebrates, dopamine is central to the mesolimbic reward system, a neural network concerned with the valuation of stimulus salience, and to the nigrostriatal motor system and hypothalamic nuclei involved in the regulation of locomotion and social behavior. In amphibians, dopaminergic neurons have been mapped out in several species, yet the distribution of dopaminoreceptive cells is unknown. The túngara frog, Physalaemus pustulosus, is an excellent model system for the study of neural mechanisms by which valuations of stimuli salience and social decisions are made, especially in the context of mate choice. In order to better understand where dopamine acts to regulate social decisions in this species, we have determined the distribution of putative dopaminergic cells (using tyrosine hydroxylase immunohistochemistry) and cells receptive to dopaminergic signaling (using DARPP-32 immunohistochemistry) throughout the brain of P. pustulosus. The distribution of dopaminergic cells was comparable to other anurans. DARPP-32 immunoreactivity was identified in key brain regions known to modulate social behavior in other vertebrates including the proposed anuran homologues of the mammalian amygdalar complex, nucleus accumbens, hippocampus, striatum, preoptic area, anterior hypothalamus, ventromedial hypothalamus, and ventral tegmental area/substantia nigra pars compacta. Due to its widespread distribution, DARPP-32 likely also plays many roles in non-limbic brain regions that mediate non-social information processing. These results significantly extend our understanding of the distribution of the dopaminergic system in the anuran brain and beyond.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine and cAMP-Regulated Phosphoprotein 32 / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Neuroanatomical Tract-Tracing Techniques
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Dopamine and cAMP-Regulated Phosphoprotein 32
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine