Synaptic-like axo-axonal transmission from striatal cholinergic interneurons onto dopaminergic fibers

Neuron. 2022 Sep 21;110(18):2949-2960.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.07.011. Epub 2022 Aug 4.


Transmission from striatal cholinergic interneurons (CINs) controls dopamine release through nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) on dopaminergic axons. Anatomical studies suggest that cholinergic terminals signal predominantly through non-synaptic volume transmission. However, the influence of cholinergic transmission on electrical signaling in axons remains unclear. We examined axo-axonal transmission from CINs onto dopaminergic axons using perforated-patch recordings, which revealed rapid spontaneous EPSPs with properties characteristic of fast synapses. Pharmacology showed that axonal EPSPs (axEPSPs) were mediated primarily by high-affinity α6-containing receptors. Remarkably, axEPSPs triggered spontaneous action potentials, suggesting that these axons perform integration to convert synaptic input into spiking, a function associated with somatodendritic compartments. We investigated the cross-species validity of cholinergic axo-axonal transmission by recording dopaminergic axons in macaque putamen and found similar axEPSPs. Thus, we reveal that synaptic-like neurotransmission underlies cholinergic signaling onto dopaminergic axons, supporting the idea that striatal dopamine release can occur independently of somatic firing to provide distinct signaling.

Keywords: acetycholine; axons; dopamine; nicotinic; presynaptic; striatum; synaptic; transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Axons / metabolism
  • Cholinergic Agents
  • Cholinergic Fibers / metabolism
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology
  • Dopamine* / physiology
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Receptors, Nicotinic* / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Cholinergic Agents
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Dopamine