Ventral tegmental area astrocytes orchestrate avoidance and approach behavior

J. A. Gomez, J. Perkins, G. Beaudoin, N. Cook, S. A. Quraishi, Erin Szoeke, M. J. Wanat, C. A. Paladini

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Aug 29, 2018
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Received Date: 27th August 2018

The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is a heterogeneous midbrain structure, containing neurons and astrocytes, that coordinates approach and avoidance behaviors by integrating activity from numerous afferents. Within astrocyte-neuron networks, astrocytes control signals from distinct afferents in a circuit-specific manner, but whether this capacity scales up to drive motivated behavior has been undetermined. Using genetic and optical dissection strategies in vitro and during behavior we report that VTA astrocytes tune glutamatergic signaling selectively on local inhibitory neurons to drive a functional circuit for learned avoidance. In this circuit, VTA astrocytes facilitate excitation of local GABA neurons to increase inhibition of dopamine neurons. The increased inhibition of dopamine neurons elicits real-time and learned avoidance behavior that is sufficient to impede expression of learned preference for reward. Despite the large number of functions performed by astrocytes, loss of one glutamate transporter (GLT-1) from VTA astrocytes selectively blocks these avoidance behaviors and spares preference for reward. Thus, VTA astrocytes selectively regulate excitation of local GABA neurons to drive a distinct learned avoidance circuit that opposes learned approach behavior.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.


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