Recent investigations have implicated the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in modulation of subcortical pathways that contribute to the generation of behavioural, autonomic and endocrine responses to stress. However, little is known of the mechanisms involved. One of the key neurotransmitters involved in mPFC function is dopamine, and we therefore aimed, in this investigation, to examine the role of mPFC dopamine in response to stress in Wistar rats. In this regard, we infused dopamine antagonists SCH23390 or sulpiride into the mPFC via retrodialysis. We then examined changes in numbers of cells expressing the c-fos immediate-early gene protein product, Fos, in subcortical neuronal populations associated with regulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stress responses in response to either of two stressors; systemic injection of interleukin-1β, or air puff. The D₁ antagonist, SCH23390, and the D₂ antagonist, sulpiride, both attenuated expression of Fos in the medial parvocellular hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (mpPVN) corticotropin-releasing factor cells at the apex of the HPA axis, as well as in most extra-hypothalamic brain regions examined in response to interleukin-1β. By contrast, SCH23390 failed to affect Fos expression in response to air puff in any brain region examined, while sulpiride resulted in an attenuation of the air puff-induced response in only the mpPVN and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. These results indicate that the mPFC differentially processes the response to different stressors and that the two types of dopamine receptor may have different roles.
European Journal of Neuroscience Vol. 20, Issue 4, p. 1008-1016