Midbrain dopamine systems play important roles in Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, addiction, and depression. The participation of midbrain dopamine systems in diverse clinical contexts suggests these systems are highly complex. Midbrain dopamine regions contain at least three neuronal phenotypes: dopaminergic, GABAergic, and glutamatergic. Here, we review the locations, subtypes, and functions of glutamatergic neurons within midbrain dopamine regions. Vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGluT2) mRNA-expressing neurons are observed within each midbrain dopamine system. Within rat retrorubral field (RRF), large populations of VGluT2 neurons are observed throughout its anteroposterior extent. Within rat substantia nigra pars compacta (SNC), VGluT2 neurons are observed centrally and caudally, and are most dense within the laterodorsal subdivision. RRF and SNC rat VGluT2 neurons lack tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), making them an entirely distinct population of neurons from dopaminergic neurons. The rat ventral tegmental area (VTA) contains the most heterogeneous populations of VGluT2 neurons. VGluT2 neurons are found in each VTA subnucleus but are most dense within the anterior midline subnuclei. Some subpopulations of rat VGluT2 neurons co-express TH or glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), but most of the VGluT2 neurons lack TH or GAD. Different subsets of rat VGluT2-TH neurons exist based on the presence or absence of vesicular monoamine transporter 2, dopamine transporter, or D2 dopamine receptor. Thus, the capacity by which VGluT2-TH neurons may release dopamine will differ based on their capacity to accumulate vesicular dopamine, uptake extracellular dopamine, or be autoregulated by dopamine. Rat VTA VGluT2 neurons exhibit intrinsic VTA projections and extrinsic projections to the accumbens and to the prefrontal cortex. Mouse VTA VGluT2 neurons project to accumbens shell, prefrontal cortex, ventral pallidum, amygdala, and lateral habenula. Given their molecular diversity and participation in circuits involved in addiction, we hypothesize that individual VGluT2 subpopulations of neurons play unique roles in addiction and other disorders.
Keywords: Addiction; VGluT2; dopamine; retrorubral field; substantia nigra; ventral tegmental area.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.