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The substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) plays a key role in basal ganglia function. Projections from multiple basal ganglia nuclei converge at the SNr to regulate nigrothalamic output. The SNr is also characterized by abundant aminergic input, including dopaminergic dendrites and axons containing 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) or histamine (HA). The functions of HA in the SNr include motor control via HA H3 receptors (H3Rs), although the mechanism remains far from elucidated. In Parkinson's disease, there is an increase in H3Rs and the density of HA-immunoreactive axons in the SN. We explored the role of H3Rs in the regulation of 5-HT release in SNr using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry at carbon-fiber microelectrodes in rat midbrain slices. Immunohistochemistry identified a similar distribution for histaminergic and serotonergic processes in the SNr: immunoreactive varicosities were observed in the vicinity of dopaminergic dendrites. Electrically evoked 5-HT release was dependent on extracellular Ca2+ and prevented by NaV+-channel blockade. Extracellular 5-HT concentration was enhanced by inhibition of uptake transporters for 5-HT but not dopamine. Selective H3R agonists (R)-(-)-alpha-methyl-histamine or immepip inhibited evoked 5-HT release by up to 60%. This inhibition was prevented by the H3R antagonist thioperamide but not by the 5-HT1B receptor antagonist isamoltane. H3R inhibition of 5-HT release prevailed in the presence of GABA or glutamate receptor antagonists (ionotropic and metabotropic), suggesting minimal involvement of GABA or glutamate synapses. The potent regulation of 5-HT by H3Rs reported here not only elucidates HA function in the SNr but also raises the possibility of novel targets for basal ganglia therapies.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





8704 - 8710


Action Potentials, Animals, Cells, Cultured, Electric Stimulation, Histamine, Histamine Agonists, Immunohistochemistry, Male, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Receptors, Histamine H3, Serotonin, Sodium Channel Blockers, Substantia Nigra