Viral Tracing Confirms Paranigral Ventral Tegmental Area Dopaminergic Inputs to the Interpeduncular Nucleus Where Dopamine Release Encodes Motivated Exploration Journal Article uri icon



  • AbstractMidbrain dopaminergic (DAergic) neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are engaged by rewarding stimuli and encode reward prediction error to update goal-directed learning. However, recent data indicate that VTA DAergic neurons are functionally heterogeneous with emerging roles in aversive signaling, salience, and novelty, based in part on anatomic location and projection, highlighting a need to functionally characterize the repertoire of VTA DAergic efferents in motivated behavior. Previous work identifying a mesointerpeduncular circuit consisting of VTA DAergic neurons projecting to the interpeduncular nucleus (IPN), a midbrain area implicated in aversion, anxiety-like behavior, and familiarity, has recently come into question. To verify the existence of this circuit, we combined presynaptic targeted and retrograde viral tracing in the dopamine transporter-Cre mouse line. Consistent with previous reports, synaptic tracing revealed that axon terminals from the VTA innervate the caudal IPN; whereas, retrograde tracing revealed DAergic VTA neurons, predominantly in the paranigral region, project to the nucleus accumbens shell, as well as the IPN. To test whether functional DAergic neurotransmission exists in the IPN, we expressed the genetically encoded DA sensor, dLight 1.2, in the IPN of C57BL/6J mice and measured IPN DA signalsin vivoduring social and anxiety-like behavior using fiber photometry. We observed an increase in IPN DA signal during social investigation of a novel but not familiar conspecific and during exploration of the anxiogenic open arms of the elevated plus maze. Together, these data confirm VTA DAergic neuron projections to the IPN and implicate this circuit in encoding motivated exploration.

publication date

  • January 1, 2023

has restriction

  • gold

Date in CU Experts

  • February 1, 2024 10:14 AM

Full Author List

  • Molas S; Zhao-Shea R; Freels TG; Tapper AR

author count

  • 4

published in

Other Profiles

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2373-2822

Additional Document Info

start page

  • ENEURO.0282

end page

  • 22.2022


  • 10


  • 1