Little is known about the density and function of dendritic spines on midbrain dopamine neurons, or the relative contribution of spine and shaft synapses to excitability. Using Ca2+ imaging, glutamate uncaging, fluorescence recovery after photobleaching and transgenic mice expressing labeled PSD-95, we comparatively analyzed electrical and Ca2+ signaling in spines and shaft synapses of dopamine neurons. Dendritic spines were present on dopaminergic neurons at low densities in live and fixed tissue. Uncaging-evoked potential amplitudes correlated inversely with spine length but positively with the presence of PSD-95. Spine Ca2+ signals were less sensitive to hyperpolarization than shaft synapses, suggesting amplification of spine head voltages. Lastly, activating spines during pacemaking, we observed an unexpected enhancement of spine Ca2+ midway throughout the spike cycle, likely involving recruitment of NMDA receptors and voltage-gated conductances. These results demonstrate functionality of spines in dopamine neurons and reveal a novel modulation of spine Ca2+ signaling during pacemaking.
Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the institutional guidelines recommended by the National Institutes of Health. All animals used were handled according to institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) protocol ASP#1332 of NIH/NINDS.
- Gary L Westbrook, Vollum Institute, United States
This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.
To decide whether a course of action is worth pursuing, individuals typically weigh its expected costs and benefits. Optimal decision-making relies upon accurate effort cost anticipation, which is generally assumed to be performed independently from goal valuation. In two experiments (n = 46), we challenged this independence principle of standard decision theory. We presented participants with a series of treadmill routes randomly associated to monetary rewards and collected both ‘accept’ versus ‘decline’ decisions and subjective estimates of energetic cost. Behavioural results show that higher monetary prospects led participants to provide higher cost estimates, although reward was independent from effort in our design. Among candidate cognitive explanations, they support a model in which prospective cost assessment is biased by the output of an automatic computation adjusting effort expenditure to goal value. This decision bias might lead people to abandon the pursuit of valuable goals that are in fact not so costly to achieve.
Synaptic communication relies on the fusion of synaptic vesicles with the plasma membrane, which leads to neurotransmitter release. This exocytosis is triggered by brief and local elevations of intracellular Ca2+ with remarkably high sensitivity. How this is molecularly achieved is unknown. While synaptotagmins confer the Ca2+ sensitivity of neurotransmitter exocytosis, biochemical measurements reported Ca2+ affinities too low to account for synaptic function. However, synaptotagmin's Ca2+ affinity increases upon binding the plasma membrane phospholipid PI(4,5)P2 and, vice versa, Ca2+-binding increases synaptotagmin's PI(4,5)P2 affinity, indicating a stabilization of the Ca2+/PI(4,5)P2 dual-bound syt. Here we devise a molecular exocytosis model based on this positive allosteric stabilization and the assumptions that (1.) synaptotagmin Ca2+/PI(4,5)P2 dual binding lowers the energy barrier for vesicle fusion and that (2.) the effect of multiple synaptotagmins on the energy barrier is additive. The model, which relies on biochemically measured Ca2+/PI(4,5)P2 affinities and protein copy numbers, reproduced the steep Ca2+ dependency of neurotransmitter release. Our results indicate that each synaptotagmin dual binding Ca2+/PI(4,5)P2 lowers the energy barrier for vesicle fusion by ~5 kBT and that allosteric stabilization of this state enables the synchronized engagement of several (typically three) synaptotagmins for fast exocytosis. Furthermore, we show that mutations altering synaptotagmin’s allosteric properties may show dominant-negative effects, even though synaptotagmins act independently on the energy barrier, and that dynamic changes of local PI(4,5)P2 (e.g. upon vesicle movement) dramatically impact synaptic responses. We conclude that allosterically stabilized Ca2+/PI(4,5)P2 dual binding enables synaptotagmins to exert their coordinated function in neurotransmission.