Mechanisms underlying the endogenous dopaminergic inhibition of spinal locomotor circuit function in Xenopus tadpoles

Laurence David Picton, Keith Thomas Sillar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Dopamine plays important roles in the development and modulation of motor control circuits. Here we show that dopamine exerts potent effects on the central pattern generator circuit controlling locomotory swimming in post-embryonic Xenopus tadpoles. Dopamine (0.5–100 μM) reduced fictive swim bout occurrence and caused both spontaneous and evoked episodes to become shorter, slower and weaker. The D2-like receptor agonist quinpirole mimicked this repertoire of inhibitory effects on swimming, whilst the D4 receptor antagonist, L745,870, had the opposite effects. The dopamine reuptake inhibitor bupropion potently inhibited fictive swimming, demonstrating that dopamine constitutes an endogenous modulatory system. Both dopamine and quinpirole also inhibited swimming in spinalised preparations, suggesting spinally located dopamine receptors. Dopamine and quinpirole hyperpolarised identified rhythmically active spinal neurons, increased rheobase and reduced spike probability both during swimming and in response to current injection. The hyperpolarisation was TTX-resistant and was accompanied by decreased input resistance, suggesting that dopamine opens a K+ channel. The K+ channel blocker barium chloride (but not TEA, glybenclamide or tertiapin-Q) significantly occluded the hyperpolarisation. Overall, we show that endogenously released dopamine acts upon spinally located D2-like receptors, leading to a rapid inhibitory modulation of swimming via the opening of a K+ channel.
Original languageEnglish
Article number35749
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2016


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