CART neurons in the lateral hypothalamus communicate with the nucleus accumbens shell via glutamatergic neurons in paraventricular thalamic nucleus to modulate reward behavior
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Paraventricular thalamic nucleus (PVT) serves as a transit node processing food and drug-associated reward information, but its afferents and efferents have not been fully defined. We test the hypothesis that the CART neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (LH) project to the PVT neurons, which in turn communicate via the glutamatergic fibers with the nucleus accumbens shell (AcbSh), the canonical site for reward. Rats conditioned to self-stimulate via an electrode in the right LH–medial forebrain bundle were used. Intra-PVT administration of CART (55–102) dose-dependently (10–50 ng/rat) lowered intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) threshold and increased lever press activity, suggesting reward-promoting action of the peptide. However, treatment with CART antibody (intra-PVT) or MK-801 (NMDA antagonist, intra-AcbSh) produced opposite effects. A combination of sub-effective dose of MK-801 (0.01 µg/rat, intra-AcbSh) and effective dose of CART (25 ng/rat, intra-PVT) attenuated CART’s rewarding action. Further, we screened the LH–PVT–AcbSh circuit for neuroadaptive changes induced by conditioning experience. A more than twofold increase was noticed in the CART mRNA expression in the LH on the side ipsilateral to the implanted electrode for ICSS. In addition, the PVT of conditioned rats showed a distinct increase in the (a) c-Fos expressing cells and CART fiber terminals, and (b) CART and vesicular glutamate transporter 2 immunostained elements. Concomitantly, the AcbSh showed a striking increase in expression of NMDA receptor subunit NR1. We suggest that CART in LH–PVT and glutamate in PVT–AcbSh circuit might support food-seeking behavior under natural conditions and also store reward memory.
KeywordsCART Reward Intracranial self-stimulation Nucleus accumbens shell Paraventricular nucleus of thalamus Glutamate
This work was supported by grants from the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) (SB/SO/AS-12/2014), Govt. of India, New Delhi, India to DMK. AJS acknowledges the grants from the UGC, Govt. of India, New Delhi, India [F.4-5/151-FRP/2014 (BSR)] and the BCUD, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune. AJS and SS also acknowledge the funds received from the DRDP of the Department of Biotechnology, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, India. Confocal imaging was undertaken at IISER Pune Microscopy Facility, Pune, India.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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