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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Oct 2023 - 27 Oct 2023

2023 Oct 18

Sci China Life Sci


Potentiation of the lateral habenula-ventral tegmental area pathway underlines the susceptibility to depression in mice with chronic pain.


Zhang CK, Wang P, Ji YY, Zhao JS, Gu JX, Yan XX, Fan HW, Zhang MM, Qiao Y, Liu XD, Li BJ, Wang MH, Dong HL, Li HH, Huang PC, Li YQ, Hou WG, Li JL, Chen T


Chronic pain often develops severe mood changes such as depression. However, how chronic pain leads to depression remains elusive and the mechanisms determining individuals’ responses to depression are largely unexplored. Here we found that depression-like behaviors could only be observed in 67.9% of mice with chronic neuropathic pain, leaving 32.1% of mice with depression resilience. We determined that the spike discharges of the ventral tegmental area (VTA)-projecting lateral habenula (LHb) glutamatergic (Glu) neurons were sequentially increased in sham, resilient and susceptible mice, which consequently inhibited VTA dopaminergic (DA) neurons through a LHb-VTA-VTA circuit. Furthermore, the LHb-VTA excitatory inputs were dampened via GABA receptors in a pre-synaptic manner. Regulation of LHb-VTA pathway largely affected the development of depressive symptoms caused by chronic pain. Our study thus identifies a pivotal role of the LHb-VTA pathway in coupling chronic pain with depression and highlights the activity-dependent contribution of LHb-to-VTA inhibition in depressive behavioral regulation.