Theses Doctoral

The function of dopamine D2 receptors in the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus

Clark, Abigail Marie

The nuclei of the midline thalamus are an important part of the brain’s limbic system. Previous work has described the presence of dopamine D2 receptors in the midline thalamus in humans, non-human primates, and rodents. A similar body of literature has also demonstrated dopaminergic innervation of the midline thalamus across these species. However, little is known regarding a) the source of dopaminergic innervation to the midline thalamus in rodents and b) the function of D2R in the midline thalamus in any species.
I begin this thesis with a review of the literature examining the anatomy, electrophysiological properties, and role in behavior of the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT), a region where D2R mRNA and protein is expressed. I next describe a series of three sets of experiments aimed toward examining the anatomical, electrophysiological, and behavioral role of D2R in the PVT in mice.
In the first set of experiments, I used anatomical methods to show that D2R are particularly enriched in neurons of the PVT. I focused on D2R-expressing PVT neurons specifically and show their afferent and efferent projections throughout the brain. In addition, I describe a set of experiments aimed to establish a dopaminergic innervation to the PVT.
In the second set of experiments, I used electrophysiological methods to study D2R-expressing PVT neurons. Here, I establish that tonic firing in D2R-expressing thalamic relay neurons in the PVT is inhibited by quinpirole, a D2R/D3R agonist, and increased by sulpiride, a D2R/D3R antagonist.
In the third set of experiments, I assessed the behavioral function of D2R in PVT neurons since this has never been studied in any species. I directly manipulated PVT D2R in two directions: a) by overexpressing D2R, and b) by downregulating D2R. Here I show PVT D2R plays a role in both cocaine locomotor sensitization as well as contextual fear expression. Our findings demonstrate for the first time the role of D2R in the PVT and add to literature suggesting that the PVT is an important component of the neural circuitry underlying fear behavior and drug reward.
I conclude this thesis with a discussion of the findings described in the three sets of experiments as well as a proposal for future experiments.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Neurobiology and Behavior
Thesis Advisors
Kellendonk, Christoph
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 30, 2017