Indexed on: 02 Dec '11Published on: 02 Dec '11Published in: Journal of neurophysiology
According to traditional models of the basal ganglia-thalamocortical network of connections, dopamine exerts D2-like receptor (D2LR)-mediated effects through actions on striatal neurons that give rise to the "indirect" pathway, secondarily affecting the activity in the internal and external pallidal segments (GPi and GPe, respectively) and the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr). However, accumulating evidence from the rodent literature suggests that D2LR activation also directly influences synaptic transmission in these nuclei. To further examine this issue in primates, we combined in vivo electrophysiological recordings and local intracerebral microinjections of drugs with electron microscopic immunocytochemistry to study D2LR-mediated modulation of neuronal activities in GPe, GPi, and SNr of normal and MPTP-treated (parkinsonian) monkeys. D2LR activation with quinpirole increased firing in most GPe neurons, likely due to a reduction of striatopallidal GABAergic inputs. In contrast, local application of quinpirole reduced firing in GPi and SNr, possibly through D2LR-mediated effects on glutamatergic inputs. Injections of the D2LR antagonist sulpiride resulted in effects opposite to those of quinpirole in GPe and GPi. D2 receptor immunoreactivity was most prevalent in putative striatal-like GABAergic terminals and unmyelinated axons in GPe, GPi, and SNr, but a significant proportion of immunoreactive boutons also displayed ultrastructural features of glutamatergic terminals. Postsynaptic labeling was minimal in all nuclei. The D2LR-mediated effects and pattern of distribution of D2 receptor immunoreactivity were maintained in the parkinsonian state. Thus, in addition to their preferential effects on indirect pathway striatal neurons, extrastriatal D2LR activation in GPi and SNr also influences direct pathway elements in the primate basal ganglia under normal and parkinsonian conditions.