A striatal circuit balances learned fear in the presence and absence of sensory cues

  1. Michael Kintscher
  2. Olexiy Kochubey
  3. Ralf Schneggenburger  Is a corresponding author
  1. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

Abstract

During fear learning, defensive behaviors like freezing need to be finely balanced in the presence or absence of threat-predicting cues (conditioned stimulus, CS). Nevertheless, the circuits underlying such balancing are largely unknown. Here, we investigate the role of the ventral tail striatum (vTS) in auditory-cued fear learning of male mice. In-vivo Ca2+ imaging showed that sizable sub-populations of direct (D1R+) and indirect pathway neurons (Adora+) in the vTS responded to footshocks, and to the initiation of movements after freezing; moreover, a sub-population of D1R+ neurons increased its responsiveness to an auditory CS during fear learning. In-vivo optogenetic silencing shows that footshock-driven activity of D1R+ neurons contributes to fear memory formation, whereas Adora+ neurons modulate freezing in the absence of a learned CS. Circuit tracing identified the posterior insular cortex (pInsCx) as an important cortical input to the vTS, and recording of optogenetically-evoked EPSCs revealed long-term plasticity with opposite outcomes at the cortical synapses onto D1R+ - and Adora+ neurons. Thus, direct- and indirect pathways neurons of the vTS show differential signs of plasticity after fear learning, and balance defensive behaviors in the presence and absence of learned sensory cues.

Data availability

The underlying raw data is available at doi:10.5281/zenodo.4003654.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Michael Kintscher

    Laboratory for Synaptic Mechanisms, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-2355-1369
  2. Olexiy Kochubey

    Laboratory of Synaptic Mechanisms, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Ralf Schneggenburger

    Laboratory of Synaptic Mechanisms, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
    For correspondence
    ralf.schneggenburger@epfl.ch
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-6223-2830

Funding

European Molecular Biology Organization (ALTF 224-2015)

  • Michael Kintscher

Swiss National Science Foundation (31003A_176332 / 1)

  • Ralf Schneggenburger

NCCR Synapsy - The Synaptic Bases of Mental disease (Project P28)

  • Ralf Schneggenburger

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 experimental procedures with laboratory animals (Mus musculus) were performed under authorizations for animal experimentation by the veterinary office of the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland (authorizations VD3274 and VD3518).

Reviewing Editor

  1. Mario A Penzo, National Institute of Mental Health, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: November 19, 2021
  2. Accepted: January 16, 2023
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: January 19, 2023 (version 1)

Copyright

© 2023, Kintscher 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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  1. Michael Kintscher
  2. Olexiy Kochubey
  3. Ralf Schneggenburger
(2023)
A striatal circuit balances learned fear in the presence and absence of sensory cues
eLife 12:e75703.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.75703

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