Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Synapse, Volume 71, Issue 1, p.51-54 (2017)
The striatum is known to be largely composed of intermingled medium-sized projection neurons expressing either the D1 or the D2 dopamine receptors. In the present study, we took advantage of the double BAC Drd1a-TdTomato/Drd2-GFP (D1 /D2 ) transgenic mice to reveal the presence of a peculiar cluster of densely-packed D1 + cells located in the shell compartment of the nucleus accumbens. This spherical cluster has a diameter of 110 µm and is exclusively composed by D1 + cells, which are all immunoreactive for the neuronal nuclear marker (NeuN). However, in contrast to other D1 + or D2 + striatal cells, those that form the accumbens cluster are devoid of calbindin (CB) and DARPP-32, two faithful markers for striatal projection neurons. Using GAD-GFP transgenic mice, we confirm the GABAergic nature of the D1 + clustered neurons. Intracellular injections from fixed brain slices indicate that these neurons are endowed with distinctive morphological features, including a small (5-6 µm), round cell body giving rise to a single primary dendrite that branches into two secondary processes. Single-neuronal injections combined to electron microscopy reveal the existence of GAP junctions linking these D1 + cells. Based on their location, morphological characteristics and neurochemical phenotype, we conclude that the D1 + accumbens cluster form a highly compact group of small neurons distinct from the larger and more diffusely distributed D1 + or D2 + striatal projection neurons that surround it. This remarkable nucleus might play a crucial role in the limbic function of the murine striatum.