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A dynamic role for dopamine receptors in the control of mammalian spinal networks

By Simon A. Sharples, Nicole E. Burma, Joanna Borowska-Fielding, Charlie H.T. Kwok, Shane E.A Eaton, Glen B. Baker, Celine Jean-Xavier, Ying Zhang, Tuan Trang, Patrick J. Whelan

Posted 29 Jul 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/715326 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-73230-w)

Dopamine is well known to regulate movement through the differential control of direct and indirect pathways in the striatum that express D1 and D2 receptors respectively. The spinal cord also expresses all dopamine receptors however; how the specific receptors regulate spinal network output in mammals is poorly understood. We explore the receptor-specific mechanisms that underlie dopaminergic control of spinal network output of neonatal mice during changes in spinal network excitability. During spontaneous activity, which is a characteristic of developing spinal networks operating in a low excitability state, we found that dopamine is primarily inhibitory. We uncover an excitatory D1-mediated effect of dopamine on motoneurons and network output that also involves co-activation with D2 receptors. Critically, these excitatory actions require higher concentrations of dopamine; however, analysis of dopamine concentrations of neonates indicates that endogenous levels of spinal dopamine are low. Because endogenous levels of spinal dopamine are low, this excitatory dopaminergic pathway is likely physiologically-silent at this stage in development. In contrast, the inhibitory effect of dopamine, at low physiological concentrations is mediated by parallel activation of D2, D3, D4 and α2 receptors which is reproduced when endogenous dopamine levels are increased by blocking dopamine reuptake and metabolism. We provide evidence in support of dedicated spinal network components that are controlled by excitatory D1 and inhibitory D2 receptors that is reminiscent of the classic dopaminergic indirect and direct pathway within the striatum. These results indicate that network state is an important factor that dictates receptor-specific and therefore dose-dependent control of neuromodulators on spinal network output and advances our understanding of how neuromodulators regulate neural networks under dynamically changing excitability. Significance statement Monoaminergic neuromodulation of neural networks is dependent not only on target receptors but also on network state. We studied the concentration-dependent control of spinal networks of the neonatal mouse, in vitro, during a low excitability state characterized by spontaneous network activity. Spontaneous activity is an essential element for the development of networks. Under these conditions, we defined converging receptor and cellular mechanisms that contribute to the diverse, concentration-dependent control of spinal motor networks by dopamine, in vitro. These experiments advance understanding of how monoamines modulate neuronal networks under dynamically changing excitability conditions and provide evidence of dedicated D1 and D2 regulated network components in the spinal cord that are consistent with those reported in the striatum.

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