Functional dissociation of behavioral effects from acetylcholine and glutamate released from cholinergic striatal interneurons
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In the striatum, cholinergic interneurons (CINs) have the ability to release both acetylcholine and glutamate, due to the expression of the vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) and the vesicular glutamate transporter 3 (VGLUT3). However, the relationship these neurotransmitters have in the regulation of behavior is not fully understood. Here we used reward-based touchscreen tests in mice to assess the individual and combined contributions of acetylcholine/glutamate co-transmission in behavior. We found that reduced levels of the VAChT from CINs negatively impacted dopamine signalling in response to reward, and disrupted complex responses in a sequential chain of events. In contrast, diminished VGLUT3 levels had somewhat opposite effects. When mutant mice were treated with haloperidol in a cue-based task, the drug did not affect the performance of VAChT mutant mice, whereas VGLUT3 mutant mice were highly sensitive to haloperidol. In mice where both vesicular transporters were deleted from CINs, we observed altered reward-evoked dopaminergic signalling and behavioral deficits that resemble, but were worse, than those in mice with specific loss of VAChT alone. These results demonstrate that the ability to secrete two different neurotransmitters allows CINs to exert complex modulation of a wide range of behaviors.