In this study published at Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, Ioannis Koutlas and colleagues of the Meye lab use the expression of immediate-early genes to characterize social-stress activated neuronal subsets in the ventral tegmental area. They show that cells of different molecular identities (dopaminergic, GABAergic, glutamatergic and combinatorial neurons) that are dispersed throughout the entire VTA are activated by a social stress episode. Furthermore, they validate the use of targeted recombination in active populations (TRAP2) to capture this VTA stress-activated neuronal ensemble and make it tractable for further manipulations. Finally, the use of TRAP2 allowed them to look into intrinsic electrophysiological properties of these neurons and show that stress activated VTA cells are more excitable than neighbouring cells that were not activated by stress.
Koutlas: “I am very excited that this work is published. It gives insight on stress-encoding VTA neuronal populations and provides us with the tools to answer further exciting questions”.