Interaction between cholecystokinin and the fibroblast growth factor system in the ventral tegmental area of selectively bred high- and low-responder rats

Ballaz SJ, Perez J, Waselus M, Akil H, Watson SJ
Neuroscience. 2013; 255:68-75.


Individual differences in the locomotor response to novelty have been linked to basal differences in dopaminergic neurotransmission. Mesolimbic dopaminergic outputs are regulated by cholecystokinin (CCK), a neuropeptide implicated in anxiety. In turn, CCK expression is regulated by fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2), which has recently been identified as an endogenous regulator of anxiety. FGF2 binds to the high-affinity fibroblast growth factor receptor-1 (FGF-R1) to regulate the development and maintenance of dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). However, the relationship between the FGF and CCK systems in the VTA is not well understood. Therefore, we utilized the selectively-bred low-responder (bLR; high-anxiety) and high-responder (bHR; low-anxiety) rats to examine the effects of repeated (21-day) FGF2 treatment on CCK and FGF-R1 mRNA in the rostral VTA (VTAr). In vehicle-treated controls, both CCK and FGF-R1 mRNA levels were increased in the VTAr of bLR rats relative to bHR rats. Following FGF2 treatment, however, bHR-bLR differences in CCK and FGF-R1 mRNA expression were eliminated, due to decreased CCK mRNA levels in the VTAr of bLR rats and increased FGF-R1 expression in bHR rats. Differences after FGF2 treatment may denote distinct interactions between the CCK and FGF systems in the VTAr of bHR vs. bLR rats. Indeed, significant correlations between CCK and FGF-R1 mRNA expression were found in bHR, but not bLR rats. Colocalization studies suggest that CCK and FGF-R1 are coexpressed in some VTAr neurons. Taken together, our findings suggest that the FGF system is poised to modulate both CCK and FGF-R1 expression in the VTAr, which may be associated with individual differences in mesolimbic pathways associated with anxiety-like behavior.