Viral vector-based tools advance knowledge of basal ganglia anatomy and physiology.
Mesoaccumbens fibers are thought to co-release dopamine and glutamate. However, the mechanism is unclear, and co-release by mesoaccumbens fibers has not been documented. Using electron microcopy, we found that some mesoaccumbens fibers have vesicular transporters for dopamine (VMAT2) in axon segments that are continuous with axon terminals that lack VMAT2, but contain vesicular glutamate transporters type 2 (VGluT2). In vivo overexpression of VMAT2 did not change the segregation of the two vesicular types, suggesting the existence of highly regulated mechanisms for maintaining this segregation. The mesoaccumbens axon terminals containing VGluT2 vesicles make asymmetric synapses, commonly associated with excitatory signaling. Using optogenetics, we found that dopamine and glutamate were released from the same mesoaccumbens fibers. These findings reveal a complex type of signaling by mesoaccumbens fibers in which dopamine and glutamate can be released from the same axons, but are not normally released at the same site or from the same synaptic vesicles.