Parallel descending dopaminergic connectivity of A13 cells to the brainstem locomotor centers.
Sharma S, Kim LH, Mayr KA, Elliott DA, Whelan PJ.
The mesencephalic locomotor region (MLR) is an important integrative area for the initiation and modulation of locomotion. Recently it has been realized that dopamine (DA) projections from the substantia nigra pars compacta project to the MLR. Here we explore DA projections from an area of the medial zona incerta (ZI) known for its role in motor control onto the MLR. We provide evidence that dopaminergic (DAergic) A13 neurons have connectivity to the cuneiform nucleus (CnF) and pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPTg) of the MLR. No ascending connectivity to the dorsolateral striatum was observed. On the other hand, DAergic A13 projections to the medullary reticular formation (MRF) and the lumbar spinal cord were sparse. A small number of non-DAergic neurons within the medial ZI projected to the lumbar spinal cord. We then characterized the DA A13 cells and report that these cells differ from canonical DA neurons since they lack the Dopamine Transporter (DAT). The lack of DAT expression, and possibly the lack of a dopamine reuptake mechanism, points to a longer time of action compared to typical dopamine neurons. Collectively our data suggest a parallel descending DAergic pathway from the A13 neurons of the medial ZI to the MLR, which we expect is important for modulating movement.