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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Administration of the GABAA receptor antagonist picrotoxin into rat supramammillary nucleus induces c-Fos in reward-related brain structures. Supramammillary picrotoxin and c-Fos expression

Rick Shin and Satoshi Ikemoto*

Author Affiliations

Behavioral Neuroscience Branch, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:101  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-101

Published: 17 August 2010

Abstract

Background

Picrotoxin blocks GABAA receptors, whose activation typically inhibits neuronal firing activity. We recently found that rats learn to selectively self-administer picrotoxin or bicuculline, another GABAA receptor antagonist, into the supramammillary nucleus (SuM), a posterior hypothalamic structure localized anterior to the ventral tegmental area. Other drugs such as nicotine or the excitatory amino acid AMPA are also self-administered into the SuM. The SuM appears to be functionally linked with the mesolimbic dopamine system and is closely connected with other brain structures that are implicated in motivational processes, including the prefrontal cortex, septal area, preoptic area, lateral hypothalamic area and dorsal raphe nucleus. Here, we hypothesized that these brain structures are activated by picrotoxin injections into the SuM.

Results

Picrotoxin administration into the SuM markedly facilitated locomotion and rearing. Further, it increased c-Fos expression in this region, suggesting blockade of tonic inhibition and thus the disinhibition of local neurons. This manipulation also increased c-Fos expression in structures including the ventral tegmental area, medial shell of the nucleus accumbens, medial prefrontal cortex, septal area, preoptic area, lateral hypothalamic area and dorsal raphe nucleus.

Conclusions

Picrotoxin administration into the SuM appears to disinhibit local neurons and recruits activation of brain structures associated with motivational processes, including the mesolimbic dopamine system, prefrontal cortex, septal area, preoptic area, lateral hypothalamic area and dorsal raphe nucleus. These regions may be involved in mediating positive motivational effects triggered by intra-SuM picrotoxin.