The nucleus accumbens (NAc) is an important brain region for motivation, reinforcement, and reward. Afferents to the NAc can be divided into two anatomically segregated neurochemical phenotypes: dopaminergic inputs, primarily from the midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA) and glutamatergic inputs from several cortical and sub-cortical structures. A population of glutamatergic neurons exists within the VTA and evidence from rats and mice suggests that these VTA axons may co-release dopamine and glutamate into the NAc. Our laboratory has used sexual experience in Syrian hamsters as a model of experience-dependent plasticity within the NAc. Given that both dopamine and glutamate are involved in this plasticity, it is important to determine whether these neurotransmitters are co-expressed within the mesolimbic pathway of hamsters. We therefore used immunofluorescent staining to investigate the possible co-localization of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), a dopaminergic marker, and vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGLUT2), a glutamatergic marker, within the mesolimbic pathway. PCR analyses identified VGLUT2 gene expression in the VTA. No co-localization of TH and VGLUT2 protein was detected in NAc fibers, nor was there a difference in immunolabeling between males and females. Further studies are needed to resolve this absence of anatomical co-localization of TH and VGLUT2 in hamster striatal afferents with reports of functional co-release in other rodents.
- Caudate putamen
- Ventral tegmental area