Epidermal growth factor administered in the periphery influences excitatory synaptic inputs onto midbrain dopaminergic neurons in postnatal mice.Neuroscience. 2009 Feb 18; 158(4):1731-41.N
Epidermal growth factor (EGF) has a neurotrophic activity on developing midbrain dopaminergic neurons. We investigated developmental effects of peripheral EGF administration on dopaminergic neurons in midbrain slice preparations containing ventral tegmental area (VTA). Subcutaneous EGF administration to mouse neonates triggered phosphorylation of EGF receptors (ErbB1 and ErbB2) in the midbrain region, suggesting its penetration through the blood-brain barrier. We repeated EGF administration in postnatal mice and examined synaptic transmission in the VTA with electrophysiological recordings. Subchronic EGF treatment increased the amplitude of field excitatory postsynaptic potentials evoked by stimulation of the anterior VTA. To analyze the EGF effect at a single cell level, dopaminergic neurons were identified by their characteristic hyperpolarizing activated currents in whole cell recording. In these dopaminergic neurons, EGF effects the amplitude of spontaneous miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs) without affecting their frequency. In agreement, EGF also enhanced the AMPA/NMDA ratio of evoked EPSCs in the dopaminergic neurons. In contrast, EGF effects on mEPSCs of neighboring neurons not exhibiting hyperpolarizing activated currents were modest or insignificant. Thus, these results suggest that circulating EGF substantially influences the physiological properties of developing midbrain dopaminergic neurons in perinatal and postnatal mice.