In situ hybridization was used to study the effect of 6-hydroxydopamine-induced damage to the midbrain dopaminergic neurons on the level of glutamate decarboxylase mRNA in globus pallidus neurons in the rat. Some animals received an injection of Fluoro-gold in the entopeduncular nucleus or the substantia nigra prior to the 6-hydroxydopamine lesion in order to identify glutamic acid decarboxylase mRNA levels in pallidal neurons that project to one of these targets. Analysis was carried out on a sample of all pallidal neurons as well as neurons that were identified as projection neurons in control and lesioned groups. The loss of the dopamine-containing neurons in the substantia nigra resulted in significant increases in the percentage of globus pallidus neurons that expressed glutamate decarboxylase mRNA and in the amount of glutamate decarboxylase mRNA per globus pallidus neuron. These increases were noted in a sample of all pallidal neurons, as well as pallidal neurons that were identified as projecting to either the entopeduncular nucleus or the substantia nigra. In control animals, glutamate decarboxylase mRNA was clearly identified in globus pallidus neurons projecting to the entopeduncular nucleus, indicating that this recently reported projection is at least partially GABAergic. The results of this study indicate that substantia nigra dopaminergic neurons regulate globus pallidus neurons in the rat, and that removal of the dopaminergic input to the corpus striatum results in a significant increase in the amount of glutamate decarboxylase mRNA in pallidal neurons. The decreased firing rate of pallidal neurons that is seen following the loss of dopamine input appears to be accompanied by an increase in the level of glutamate decarboxylase mRNA in these neurons.
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