Excitatory drive from the Subthalamic nucleus attenuates GABAergic transmission in the Substantia Nigra pars compacta via endocannabinoids

Eur J Pharmacol. 2015 Nov 15;767:144-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2015.09.050. Epub 2015 Oct 16.


Endocannabinoids (eCBs) are cannabis-like substances produced in the brain where their primary function is to regulate synaptic transmission by inhibiting neurotransmitter release in a retrograde fashion. We have recently demonstrated a novel mechanism regulating GABAergic transmission from neurons in the Substantia Nigra pars reticulata (SNr) to dopaminergic neurons in the Substantia Nigra pars compacta (SNc) mediated by eCBs. Production of eCBs was initiated by spillover of glutamate, yet the source of the glutamate was not determined (Freestone et al., 2014; Neuropharmacology 79 p467). The present study aimed at elucidating the potential role of glutamatergic terminals arising from neurons in the Subthalamic nucleus (STN) in driving the eCB-mediated modulation of this inhibitory transmission. GABAergic IPSCs or IPSPs evoked in SNc neurons by electrical stimuli delivered to the SNr region were transiently inhibited by electrical or pharmacological (U-tube application of muscarinic agonist carbachol [100 µM]) stimulation of the STN (to 74±5% and 69±4% respectively). In both stimulation protocols, the attenuation of GABAergic transmission was abolished by cannabinoid receptor 1 antagonist rimonabant (3 µM), and reduced by group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptor antagonist CPCCOEt (100 µM), consistent with a glutamate-initiated and eCB-mediated mechanism. The carbachol-induced attenuation of GABAergic transmission was abolished by M3 muscarinic receptor antagonist 4-DAMP (10 µM), confirming a specific activation of STN neurons. These results demonstrate that glutamatergic projection from the STN to dopaminergic SNc neurons underlies an eCB-mediated inhibition of GABAergic input to these neurons.

Keywords: Dopaminergic; Endocannabinoids; Hyperdirect pathway; Substantia Nigra pars compacta; Subthalamic nucleus; Synaptic transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbachol / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Carbachol / pharmacology
  • Chromones / administration & dosage
  • Chromones / pharmacology
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Endocannabinoids / physiology*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • GABAergic Neurons / drug effects
  • GABAergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Pars Compacta / physiology*
  • Pars Reticulata / drug effects
  • Pars Reticulata / physiology
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rimonabant
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / drug effects
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • 7-(hydroxyimino)cyclopropan(b)chromen-1a-carbxoylic acid ethyl ester
  • Chromones
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles
  • 4-diphenylacetoxy-1,1-dimethylpiperidinium
  • Carbachol
  • Rimonabant