Dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area use glutamate as a cotransmitter. To elucidate the behavioral role of the cotransmission, we targeted the glutamate-recycling enzyme glutaminase (gene Gls1). In mice with a dopamine transporter (Slc6a3)-driven conditional heterozygous (cHET) reduction of Gls1 in their dopamine neurons, dopamine neuron survival and transmission were unaffected, while glutamate cotransmission at phasic firing frequencies was reduced, enabling a selective focus on the cotransmission. The mice showed normal emotional and motor behaviors, and an unaffected response to acute amphetamine. Strikingly, amphetamine sensitization was reduced and latent inhibition potentiated. These behavioral effects, also seen in global GLS1 HETs with a schizophrenia resilience phenotype, were not seen in mice with an Emx1-driven forebrain reduction affecting most brain glutamatergic neurons. Thus, a reduction in dopamine neuron glutamate cotransmission appears to mediate significant components of the GLS1 HET schizophrenia resilience phenotype, and glutamate cotransmission appears to be important in attribution of motivational salience.
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