Connexin-36 (Cx36) gap junctions (GJs) appear to be involved in the synchronization of GABA interneurons in many brain areas. We have previously identified a population of Cx36-connected ventral tegmental area (VTA) GABA neurons that may regulate mesolimbic dopamine (DA) neurotransmission, a system implicated in reward from both natural behaviors and drugs of abuse. The aim of this study was to determine the effect mefloquine (MFQ) has on midbrain DA and GABA neuron inhibition, and the role Cx36 GJs play in regulating midbrain VTA DA neuron activity in mice. In brain slices from adolescent wild-type (WT) mice the Cx36-selective GJ blocker mefloquine (MFQ, 25 μM) increased VTA DA neuron sIPSC frequency sixfold, and mIPSC frequency threefold. However, in Cx36 KO mice, MFQ only increased sIPSC and mIPSC frequency threefold. The nonselective GJ blocker carbenoxolone (CBX, 100 μM) increased DA neuron sIPSC frequency twofold in WT mice, did not affect Cx36 KO mouse sIPSCs, and did not affect mIPSCs in WT or Cx36 KO mice. Interestingly, MFQ had no effect on VTA GABA neuron sIPSC frequency. We also examined MFQ effects on VTA DA neuron firing rate and current-evoked spiking in WT and Cx36 KO mice, and found that MFQ decreased WT DA neuron firing rate and current-evoked spiking, but did not alter these measures in Cx36 KO mice. Taken together these findings suggest that blocking Cx36 GJs increases VTA DA neuron inhibition, and that GJs play in key role in regulating inhibition of VTA DA neurons. Synapse, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.