The release of dopamine from terminals in the NAc is regulated by a number of factors, including voltage-gated ion channels, D2-autoreceptors, and nAChRs. Cholinergic interneurons (CINs) drive dopamine release through activation of nAChRs on dopamine terminals. Using cyclic voltammetry in mouse brain slices, nAChR-dependent spontaneous dopamine transients and the mechanisms underlying the origin were examined in the NAc. Spontaneous events were infrequent (0.3 per minute), but the rate and amplitude were increased after blocking Kv channels with 4-aminopyridine. Although the firing frequency of CINs was increased by blocking glutamate reuptake with TBOA and the Sk blocker apamin, only 4-aminopyridine increased the frequency of dopamine transients. In contrast, inhibition of CIN firing with the μ/δ selective opioid [Met5]enkephalin (1 μM) decreased spontaneous dopamine transients. Cocaine increased the rate and amplitude of dopamine transients, suggesting that the activity of the dopamine transporter limits the detection of these events. In the presence of cocaine, the rate of spontaneous dopamine transients was further increased after blocking D2-autoreceptors. Blockade of muscarinic receptors had no effect on evoked dopamine release, suggesting that feedback inhibition of acetylcholine release was not involved. Thus, although spontaneous dopamine transients are reliant on nAChRs, the frequency was not strictly governed by the activity of CINs. The increase in frequency of spontaneous dopamine transients induced by cocaine was not due to an increase in cholinergic tone and is likely a product of an increase in detection resulting from decreased dopamine reuptake.
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