The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is an important component of the mesolimbic dopamine circuit and processes reward and motivational behaviors. In response to drug exposure, synaptic connections of this circuit can be rewired via synaptic plasticity—a phenomenon thought be responsible for the pathology of addiction. While much is known about dopamine neuron plasticity, less is known regarding plasticity exhibited by VTA GABA cells, specifically inhibitory inputs from outside the VTA. Expanding on the work of Bocklisch et al. (2013), we investigated the plasticity of inhibitory inputs to VTA GABA neurons. Using whole cell electrophysiology in GAD67 GFP mice, we observed that these VTA GABA cells can experience either long-term potentiation (LTP) or long-term depression (LTD) in response to a 5 Hz stimulus. While neither the LTP nor LTD appear to be mediated by the cannabinoid-1 receptor (CB1), the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) pathway, or the dopamine-2 (D2) receptor, the LTP is blocked by APV, an NMDA receptor antagonist, and the LTD is blocked by CGP 54626, an antagonist of the GABAB receptor. Additionally, µ-opioid and adenosine-1 receptors modulated plasticity at this synapse, but chronic morphine administration (10mg/kg) did not block the observed LTP or LTD. Furthermore, we used an optogenetic approach in VGAT-Cre mice to target inhibitory inputs from the lateral hypothalamus (LH) to the VTA. An optical stimulus (5 Hz) caused these inputs to depress, which has not been previously described and may be behaviorally important in reward processing. These novel findings increase our understanding of VTA neural circuitry, ultimately increasing our capacity to better comprehend and treat the pathology of addiction. Additionally, changes in synaptic strength in hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells are thought to be responsible for the acquisition and retention of short-term memory. Feedforward stratum radiatum interneurons of many subtypes experience LTD, short-term depression (STD), or lack of plasticity, but it is not known whether plasticity correlates with specific interneuron subtypes. Using whole cell electrophysiology and qPCR, we characterized the plasticity expressed by hippocampal interneurons in correlation with their mRNA expression patterns to determine cell subtype. We also assessed the expression of endocannabinoid (eCB) biosynthetic enzymes as well as metabotropic glutamate receptor subunits known to mediate plasticity. Cells exhibiting LTD tended to express mRNA for at least one of the eCB biosynthetic enzymes and the metabotropic glutamate receptor subunit mGluR5. mGluR5 was not expressed by cells exhibiting STD or no plasticity. Cells that exhibited short-term depression tended to express mRNA for at least one of the eCB biosynthetic enzymes, but not mGluR5. This suggests that stratum radiatum interneuron plasticity can be predicted based on mGluR expression, and that these different types of plasticity may have some importance in hippocampal function.



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GABA, long-term depression, long-term potentiation, addiction, radiatum, mGluR5