Recent findings indicate that VTA and SN dopaminergic (DA) and GABAergic neurons form subpopulations that are divergent in their electrophysiological features, vulnerability to neurodegeneration, and regulation by neuropeptides. This diversity can be correlated with the anatomical organization of the VTA and SN and their inputs and outputs. In this review we describe the heterogeneity in ion channels and firing patterns, especially burst firing, in subpopulations of dopamine neurons. We go on to describe variations in vulnerability to neurotoxic damage in models of Parkinson’s disease in subgroups of DA neurons and its possible relationship to developmental gene regulation, the expression of different ion channels, and the expression of different protein markers, such as the neuroprotective marker calbindin. The electrophysiological properties of subgroups of GABAergic midbrain neurons, patterns of expression of protein markers and receptors, possible involvement of GABAergic neurons in a number of processes that are usually attributed exclusively to dopaminergic neurons, and the characteristics of a subgroup of neurons that contains both dopamine and GABA are also discussed.
Molecular Neurobiology – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 6, 2007
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