Date of Award

8-1-2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Pharmacology

First Advisor

Arai, Amy

Abstract

Dopaminergic systems regulate many brain functions and dysfunction of dopaminergic neurotransmission is thought to underlie numerous disorders, including schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and Alzheimer’s disease. In the hippocampus, a dopaminergic projection from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) is proposed to be essential for controlling entry of sensory information into long-term memory through novelty and salience detection. However, the effects of the VTA-dopamine system on hippocampal synaptic transmission are largely under-explored and the underlying mechanisms are unclear. The goal of this project was to investigate mechanisms involved in dopaminergic modulation of hippocampal neurophysiology. Specifically, I (1) examined if dopamine modulates hippocampal synaptic transmission in a region- and input-specific manner, and (2) studied the signaling mechanisms underlying such modulation. In the first aim for the study, I tested whether SKF38393, a dopamine D1-like receptor agonist, differentially affects excitatory synaptic transmission in perforant path synapses onto dentate gyrus granule cells and whether such effects differ from those at area CA1 synapses. I found that SKF38393 produced a concentration-dependent increase in field excitatory postsynaptic potential (fEPSP) in both subregions, but that higher concentrations were needed in the dentate gyrus to produce comparable effects. This synaptic enhancement was long-lasting and largely irreversible which suggests it may be a form of long term enhancement (LTP). Also, the increase in synaptic transmission at medial perforant path synapses was larger than in the lateral perforant path. Importantly, effects in the dentate gyrus, unlike those in CA1, differed substantially along the dorsoventral axis, with effects being significantly larger at the dorsal compared to the ventral pole. In the second aim, various combinations of D1 and D2-like receptor agonists and antagonists as well as inhibitors of second messenger systems, demonstrated that differential mechanisms were required for initiation and maintenance of SKF38393-mediated early and late-phase enhancement and that a novel non-canonical phospholipase-C (PLC) dependent signaling pathway may be involved. Based on recent discoveries in other brain regions, we hypothesized that multiple subcellular signaling pathways may contribute to PLC activation which may include but are not limited to D1(5)-D2 heteromers and Gβγ complex. In conclusion, this work uncovers novel dopaminergic signaling pathways regulating hippocampal physiology, which will lead to development of better (functionally selective) therapeutic agents.

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