Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is an autosomal dominant disorder whose neurodevelopmental symptoms include impaired executive function, attention, and spatial learning that could be due to perturbed mesolimbic dopaminergic circuitry. However, these circuits have never been directly assayed in vivo. We employed the genetically encoded optical dopamine sensor dLight1 to monitor dopaminergic neurotransmission in the ventral striatum of NF1 mice during motivated behavior. Additionally, we developed novel systemic AAV vectors to facilitate morphological reconstruction of dopaminergic populations in cleared tissue. We found that NF1 mice exhibit reduced spontaneous dopaminergic neurotransmission that was associated with excitation/inhibition imbalance in the ventral tegmental area and abnormal neuronal morphology. NF1 mice also had more robust dopaminergic and behavioral responses to salient visual stimuli, which were stimulus-dependent, independent of learning, and rescued by optogenetic inhibition of non-dopaminergic neurons in the VTA. Overall, these studies provide a first in vivo characterization of dopaminergic circuit function in the context of NF1 and reveal novel pathophysiological mechanisms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)