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The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Impact of basal forebrain cholinergic inputs on basolateral amygdala neurons.


PMID 25589777

Abstract

In addition to innervating the cerebral cortex, basal forebrain cholinergic (BFc) neurons send a dense projection to the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA). In this study, we investigated the effect of near physiological acetylcholine release on BLA neurons using optogenetic tools and in vitro patch-clamp recordings. Adult transgenic mice expressing cre-recombinase under the choline acetyltransferase promoter were used to selectively transduce BFc neurons with channelrhodopsin-2 and a reporter through the injection of an adeno-associated virus. Light-induced stimulation of BFc axons produced different effects depending on the BLA cell type. In late-firing interneurons, BFc inputs elicited fast nicotinic EPSPs. In contrast, no response could be detected in fast-spiking interneurons. In principal BLA neurons, two different effects were elicited depending on their activity level. When principal BLA neurons were quiescent or made to fire at low rates by depolarizing current injection, light-induced activation of BFc axons elicited muscarinic IPSPs. In contrast, with stronger depolarizing currents, eliciting firing above ∼ 6-8 Hz, these muscarinic IPSPs lost their efficacy because stimulation of BFc inputs prolonged current-evoked afterdepolarizations. All the effects observed in principal neurons were dependent on muscarinic receptors type 1, engaging different intracellular mechanisms in a state-dependent manner. Overall, our results suggest that acetylcholine enhances the signal-to-noise ratio in principal BLA neurons. Moreover, the cholinergic engagement of afterdepolarizations may contribute to the formation of stimulus associations during fear-conditioning tasks where the timing of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli is not optimal for the induction of synaptic plasticity.