Direct catecholaminergic-cholinergic interactions in the basal forebrain. II. Substantia nigra-ventral tegmental area projections to cholinergic neurons.J Comp Neurol 1996; 374(4):555-77JC
Previous observations indicate that the basal forebrain receives dopaminergic input from the ventral midbrain. The present study aimed at determining the topographic organization of these projections in the rat, and whether this input directly terminates on cholinergic neurons. Injections of the anterograde tracer Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) into discrete parts of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNC) labeled axons and terminals in distinct parts of the basal forebrain, including medial and lateral septum, diagnoal band nuclei, ventral pallidum, globus pallidus, substantia innominata, globus pallidus, and internal capsule, where PHA-L-labeled terminals abutted cholinergic (choline acetyltransferase = ChAT-containing) profiles. Three-dimensional (3-D) computerized reconstruction of immunostained sections clearly revealed distinct, albeit overlapping, subpopulations of ChAT-immunoreactive neurons apposed by PHA-L-labeled input from medial VTA (mainly in vertical and horizontal diagonal band nuclei), lateral VTA and medial SNC (ventral pallidum and anterior half of substantia innominata), and lateral SNC (caudal half of the substantia innominata and globus pallidus). At the ultrastructural level, about 40% of the selected PHA-L-labeled presynaptic terminals in the ventral pallidum and substantia innominata were found to establish synaptic specializations with ChAT-containing profiles, most of which on the cell body and proximal dendritic shafts. Convergent synaptic input of unlabeled terminals that formed asymmetric synapses with the ChAT-immunoreactive profiles were often found in close proximity to the PHA-L-labeled terminals. These observations show that the cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain are targets of presumably dopaminergic SNC/VTA neurons, and suggest a direct modulatory role of dopamine in acetylcholine release in the cerebral cortical mantle.