Anton Ilango, Andrew J. Kesner, Kristine L. Keller, Garret D. Stuber, Antonello Bonci, and Satoshi Ikemoto
J. Neurosci. 2014;34 817-822
Dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are implicated in affective functions. However, it is unclear to what extent dopamine neurons in substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) play such roles. TH-Cre transgenic mice received adeno-associated viral vectors encoding channelrhodopsin2 (ChR2), halorhodopsin (NpHR), or control vector into the VTA or SNc, resulting in selective expression of these opsins in dopamine neurons. Mice with ChR2 learned instrumental responding to deliver photostimulation into the VTA or SNc and also sought for the compartment where they received photostimulation (i.e., operant place preference). Operant place preference scores were highly correlated with self-stimulation responses. In contrast, mice with NpHR avoided the compartment where they received photostimulation into the VTA, SNc, or dorsal striatum, whereas control mice did not. These observations suggest that the excitation and inhibition of SNc dopamine neurons elicit positive and negative affective effects, respectively, similar to those of VTA dopamine neurons.