Activation of dopamine (DA) D1 receptors (D1Rs) in the nucleus accumbens (Acb) markedly affects the levels of prodynorphin, the precursor of aversion-associated dynorphin peptides. The location of prodynorphin, specifically as related to the dopaminergic inputs and D1Rs in the Acb, is fundamental for establishing the physiologically relevant sites. To determine these sites, we examined the electron microscopic dual-immunolabeling of prodynorphin and D1R or tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), a marker of catecholamine terminals in the rat Acb shell. This subregion is targeted by mesolimbic dopaminergic inputs affecting reward-aversion responses and locomotor activity. Prodynorphin was prominently localized to large (100-200 nm) granular aggregates in somatodendritic and axonal profiles, some of which expressed dynorphin A/B. In somata and dendrites, prodynorphin was often found in punctate clusters in the cytoplasm. Of the total prodynorphin-labeled dendrites, approximately 63% expressed D1Rs, which were largely located on the plasma membranes. In comparison with dendrites, many more axon terminals contained prodynorphin, although only 15% of these terminals contained D1R-labeling. Prodynorphin terminals formed symmetric synapses with D1R-labeled or unlabeled dendrites, and also apposed TH-containing axon terminals. Our results provide ultrastructural evidence that in the Acb shell, the prodynorphin is available for cleavage to physiologically active peptides in both dendrites and terminals of neurons that express D1Rs. They also indicate that dynorphin peptides have distributions that would enable their participation in modulation of DA release or D1R-mediated postsynaptic responses in Acb shell neurons.
- Dense-core vesicle