Medial septum activation produces opposite effects on dopamine neuron activity in the ventral tegmental area and substantia nigra in MAM vs. normal rats

NPJ Schizophr. 2018 Sep 3;4(1):17. doi: 10.1038/s41537-018-0059-3.


The medial septum (MS) differentially impacts midbrain dopamine (DA) neuron activity via the ventral hippocampus, a region implicated in DA-related disorders. However, whether MS regulation of ventral tegmental area (VTA) and substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) is disrupted in a developmental disruption model of schizophrenia is unknown. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed at gestational day 17 to methylazoxymethanol (MAM) or saline. As adults, NMDA (0.75 µg/0.2 µL) was infused into the MS, and either DA neuron activity in the VTA and SNc (7-9 anesthetized rats per group) or amphetamine-induced hyperlocomotion (AIH, 11-13 rats per group) was measured. MS activation produced a 58% increase in the number of spontaneously active DA neurons in VTA and a 37% decrease in SNc in saline rats. However, MS activation produced opposite effects on DA population activity in MAM rats, decreasing VTA DA activity by 51% and increasing SNc DA activity by 47%. MS activation also increased AIH by 113% in MAM rats, opposite of what is seen in intact rats. The effect in behavioral output may be due to disrupted GABAergic regulation of SNc as bicuculline infusion into vSub, which selectively prevented the MS activation-induced decrease in SNc DA activity in intact rats, prevented the increase in AIH and SNc DA activity in MAM rats. These findings demonstrate that the regulation of midbrain DA neurons by the MS is disrupted in this well-validated animal model, suggesting that it could be a potential locus for pharmacological intervention in disorders such as schizophrenia.