Author(s): Smith Y, Kieval J, Couceyro PR, Kuhar MJ
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Abstract Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) is a novel mRNA whose level of expression was found to be increased in the striatum after acute administration of psychomotor stimulants in rats. To define better the potential role of CART peptides in behavioural and physiologic changes induced by psychomotor stimulants, we analyzed the distribution, ultrastructural features, synaptic connectivity, and transmitter content of CART peptide-immunoreactive neurones in the nucleus accumbens in monkeys. Medium-sized CART peptide-immunoreactive neurones within a rich plexus of labelled varicosities were found mostly in the medial division of the shell of the nucleus accumbens in monkeys. At the electron microscope level, CART peptide immunoreactivity was exclusively associated with neuronal structures that included perikarya, dendrites, spines as well as nerve terminals packed with electron-lucent and dense-core vesicles. Most CART peptide-containing somata displayed the ultrastructural features of striatal output neurones. The majority of labelled terminals formed symmetric axodendritic synapses and displayed gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) immunoreactivity. CART peptide-immunoreactive somata were not immunoreactive for parvalbumin and somatostatin, two markers of striatal interneurones, nor for calbindin D-28k, a marker of a subpopulation of projection neurones. In double-immunostained sections, CART peptide-immunoreactive dendrites were found to be contacted by tyrosine hydroxylase-positive terminals which displayed the ultrastructural features of dopamine-containing boutons. These findings strongly suggest that CART peptides may be a cotransmitter with GABA in a subpopulation of projection neurones in the monkey accumbens. Furthermore, the fact that CART peptide-immunoreactive neurones receive direct synaptic inputs from dopaminergic afferents and are particularly abundant in the caudomedial division of the shell of the nucleus accumbens suggest that CART peptides might be involved in neuronal and behavioural changes that underlie addiction to psychomotor stimulants and feeding in primates.
This article was published in J Comp Neurol
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy