1. Neuroscience
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Circuit and synaptic organization of forebrain-to-midbrain pathways that promote and suppress vocalization

  1. Valerie Michael
  2. Jack Goffinet
  3. John Pearson
  4. Fan Wang
  5. Katherine Tschida  Is a corresponding author
  6. Richard Mooney  Is a corresponding author
  1. Duke University Medical Center, United States
  2. Duke University Medical Centre, United States
  3. Cornell University, United States
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2020;9:e63493 doi: 10.7554/eLife.63493

Abstract

Animals vocalize only in certain behavioral contexts, but the circuits and synapses through which forebrain neurons trigger or suppress vocalization remain unknown. Here we used transsynaptic tracing to identify two populations of inhibitory neurons that lie upstream of neurons in the periaqueductal gray that gate the production of ultrasonic vocalizations in mice (i.e., PAG-USV neurons). Activating PAG-projecting neurons in the preoptic hypothalamus (POAPAG neurons) elicited USV production in the absence of social cues. In contrast, activating PAG-projecting neurons in the central-medial boundary zone of the amygdala (AmgC/M-PAG neurons) transiently suppressed USV production without disrupting non-vocal social behavior. Optogenetics-assisted circuit mapping in brain slices revealed that POAPAG neurons directly inhibit PAG interneurons, which in turn inhibit PAG-USV neurons, whereas AmgC/M-PAG neurons directly inhibit PAG-USV neurons. These experiments identify two major forebrain inputs to the PAG that trigger and suppress vocalization, respectively, while also establishing the synaptic mechanisms through which these neurons exert opposing behavioral effects.

Data availability

Data have been deposited to the Duke Research Data Repository, under the DOI: 10.7924/r4cz38d99. We have deposited 4 types of data in the repository: (1) confocal microscope images of in situ hybridization, (2) audio and video files from the mice used in this study, (3) slice electrophysiology data, and (4) custom Matlab codes used for data analysis. All other data analyzed in this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files.

The following data sets were generated

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Valerie Michael

    Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Jack Goffinet

    Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-6729-0848
  3. John Pearson

    Biostatistics & Bioinformatics, Neurobiology, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology and Neuroscience, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-9876-7837
  4. Fan Wang

    Department of Neurobiology, Department of Cell Biology, Duke University Medical Centre, Durham, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Katherine Tschida

    Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, United States
    For correspondence
    kat227@cornell.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-8171-1722
  6. Richard Mooney

    Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, United States
    For correspondence
    mooney@neuro.duke.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-3308-1367

Funding

National Institutes of Health (R01 DC013826)

  • Richard Mooney

National Institutes of Health (R01 MH117778)

  • Fan Wang
  • Richard Mooney

National Institutes of Health (F31DC017879)

  • Valerie Michael

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Animal experimentation: All experiments were conducted according to protocols approved by the Duke University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocol (# A227-17-09).

Reviewing Editor

  1. Catherine Emily Carr, University of Maryland, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: September 29, 2020
  2. Accepted: December 28, 2020
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: December 29, 2020 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: January 8, 2021 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record updated: January 14, 2021 (version 3)

Copyright

© 2020, Michael et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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    Funding: This work was supported in part by the Italian Ministry of Health (GR-2013-02355724 and Ricerca Corrente), MJFF, ALZ, Alzheimer's Research UK and the Weston Brain Institute (BAND2015), and Euronanomed III (Speedy) to FM; by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad [grant AGL2016-78054-R (AEI/FEDER, UE)] to J.M.T. and J.C.E.; A.M.-M. was supported by a fellowship from the INIA (FPI-SGIT-2015-02).