Two distinct populations of GABAergic neurons innervate the lateral habenula of larval zebrafish. One population, located in the anterior thalamus, terminates in neuropils. Another population, located in the posterior hypothalamus, appears to terminate on cell soma bilaterally.
Habenula neurons are constantly active. The level of activity affects mood and behaviour, with increased activity in the lateral habenula reflecting exposure to punishment and a switch to passive coping and depression. Here, we identify GABAergic neurons that could reduce activity in the lateral habenula of larval zebrafish. GAD65/67 immunohistochemistry and imaging of gad1b:DsRed transgenic fish suggest the presence of GABAergic terminals in the neuropil and between cell bodies in the lateral habenula. Retrograde tracing with the lipophilic dye DiD suggests that the former derives from the thalamus, while the latter originates from a group of cells in the posterior hypothalamus that are located between the posterior tuberal nucleus and hypothalamic lobes. Two‐photon calcium imaging indicates that blue light causes excitation of thalamic GABAergic neurons and terminals in the neuropil, while a subpopulation of lateral habenula neurons show reduced intracellular calcium levels. Whole‐cell electrophysiological recording indicates that blue light reduces membrane potential of lateral habenula neurons. These observations suggest that GABAergic input from the thalamus may mediate inhibition in the zebrafish lateral habenula. Mechanisms governing release of GABA from the neurons in the posterior hypothalamus, which are likely to be in the tuberomammillary nucleus, remain to be defined.