Selective deletion of the leptin receptor in dopamine neurons produces anxiogenic-like behavior and increases dopaminergic activity in amygdala.
ABSTRACT: The leptin receptor (Lepr) is expressed on midbrain dopamine neurons. However, the specific role of Lepr signaling in dopamine neurons remains to be clarified. In the present study, we generated a line of conditional knockout mice lacking functional Lepr selectively on dopamine neurons (Lepr(DAT-Cre)). These mice exhibit normal body weight and feeding. Behaviorally, Lepr(DAT-Cre) mice display an anxiogenic-like phenotype in the elevated plus-maze, light-dark box, social interaction and novelty-suppressed feeding tests. Depression-related behaviors, as assessed by chronic stress-induced anhedonia, forced swim and tail-suspension tests, were not affected by deletion of Lepr in dopamine neurons. In vivo electrophysiological recordings of dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area revealed an increase in burst firing in Lepr(DAT-Cre) mice. Moreover, blockade of D1-dependent dopamine transmission in the central amygdala by local microinjection of the D1 antagonist SCH23390 attenuated the anxiogenic phenotype of Lepr(DAT-Cre) mice. These findings suggest that Lepr signaling in midbrain dopamine neurons has a crucial role for the expression of anxiety and for the dopamine modulation of amygdala function.
Project description:Transgenic mouse lines are instrumental in our attempt to understand brain function. Promoters driving transgenic expression of the gene encoding Cre recombinase are crucial to ensure selectivity in Cre-mediated targeting of floxed alleles using the Cre-Lox system. For the study of dopamine (DA) neurons, promoter sequences driving expression of the Dopamine transporter (Dat) gene are often implemented and several DAT-Cre transgenic mouse lines have been found to faithfully direct Cre activity to DA neurons. While evaluating an established DAT-Cre mouse line, reporter gene expression was unexpectedly identified in cell somas within the amygdala. To indiscriminately explore Cre activity in DAT-Cre transgenic lines, systematic whole-brain analysis of two DAT-Cre mouse lines was performed upon recombination with different types of floxed reporter alleles. Results were compared with data available from the Allen Institute for Brain Science. The results identified restricted DAT-Cre-driven reporter gene expression in cell clusters within several limbic areas, including amygdaloid and mammillary subnuclei, septum and habenula, areas classically associated with glutamatergic and GABAergic neurotransmission. While no Dat gene expression was detected, ample co-localization between DAT-Cre-driven reporter and markers for glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons was found. Upon viral injection of a fluorescent reporter into the amygdala and habenula, distinct projections from non-dopaminergic DAT-Cre neurons could be distinguished. The study demonstrates that DAT-Cre transgenic mice, beyond their usefulness in recombination of floxed alleles in DA neurons, could be implemented as tools to achieve selective targeting in restricted excitatory and inhibitory neuronal populations within the limbic neurocircuitry.
Project description:Dopaminergic neurons regulate and organize numerous important behavioral processes including motor activity. Consistently, manipulation of brain dopamine concentrations changes animal activity levels. Dopamine is synthesized by several neuronal populations in the brain. This study was carried out to directly test whether selective activation of dopamine neurons in the midbrain induces hyperactivity. A pharmacogenetic approach was used to activate midbrain dopamine neurons, and behavioral assays were conducted to determine the effects on mouse activity levels. Transgenic expression of the evolved hM3Dq receptor was achieved by infusing Cre-inducible AAV viral vectors into the midbrain of DAT-Cre mice. Neurons were excited by injecting the hM3Dq ligand clozapine-N-oxide (CNO). Mouse locomotor activity was measured in an open field. The results showed that CNO selectively activated midbrain dopaminergic neurons and induced hyperactivity in a dose-dependent manner, supporting the idea that these neurons play an important role in regulating motor activity.
Project description:Cannabinoid CB2 receptors (CB2Rs) are expressed in mouse brain dopamine (DA) neurons and are involved in several DA-related disorders. However, the cell type-specific mechanisms are unclear since the CB2R gene knockout mice are constitutive gene knockout. Therefore, we generated Cnr2-floxed mice that were crossed with DAT-Cre mice, in which Cre- recombinase expression is under dopamine transporter gene (DAT) promoter control to ablate Cnr2 gene in midbrain DA neurons of DAT-Cnr2 conditional knockout (cKO) mice. Using a novel sensitive RNAscope in situ hybridization, we detected CB2R mRNA expression in VTA DA neurons in wildtype and DAT-Cnr2 cKO heterozygous but not in the homozygous DAT-Cnr2 cKO mice. Here we report that the deletion of CB2Rs in dopamine neurons enhances motor activities, modulates anxiety and depression-like behaviors and reduces the rewarding properties of alcohol. Our data reveals that CB2Rs are involved in the tetrad assay induced by cannabinoids which had been associated with CB1R agonism. GWAS studies indicates that the CNR2 gene is associated with Parkinson's disease and substance use disorders. These results suggest that CB2Rs in dopaminergic neurons may play important roles in the modulation of psychomotor behaviors, anxiety, depression, and pain sensation and in the rewarding effects of alcohol and cocaine.
Project description:The "One neuron-one neurotransmitter" concept has been challenged frequently during the last three decades, and the coexistence of neurotransmitters in individual neurons is now regarded as a common phenomenon. The functional significance of neurotransmitter coexistence is, however, less well understood. Several studies have shown that a subpopulation of dopamine (DA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) expresses the vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGLUT2) and has been suggested to use glutamate as a cotransmitter. The VTA dopamine neurons project to limbic structures including the nucleus accumbens, and are involved in mediating the motivational and locomotor activating effects of psychostimulants. To determine the functional role of glutamate cotransmission by these neurons, we deleted VGLUT2 in DA neurons by using a conditional gene-targeting approach in mice. A DAT-Cre/Vglut2Lox mouse line (Vglut2(f/f;DAT-Cre) mice) was produced and analyzed by in vivo amperometry as well as by several behavioral paradigms. Although basal motor function was normal in the Vglut2(f/f;DAT-Cre) mice, their risk-taking behavior was altered. Interestingly, in both home-cage and novel environments, the gene targeted mice showed a greatly blunted locomotor response to the psychostimulant amphetamine, which acts via the midbrain DA system. Our results show that VGLUT2 expression in DA neurons is required for normal emotional reactivity as well as for psychostimulant-mediated behavioral activation.
Project description:Acute amphetamine (AMPH) exposure elevates extracellular dopamine through a variety of mechanisms that include inhibition of dopamine reuptake, depletion of vesicular stores, and facilitation of dopamine efflux across the plasma membrane. Recent work has shown that the DAT substrate AMPH, unlike cocaine and other nontransported blockers, can also stimulate endocytosis of the plasma membrane dopamine transporter (DAT). Here, we show that when AMPH enters the cytoplasm it rapidly stimulates DAT internalization through a dynamin-dependent, clathrin-independent process. This effect, which can be observed in transfected cells, cultured dopamine neurons, and midbrain slices, is mediated by activation of the small GTPase RhoA. Inhibition of RhoA activity with C3 exotoxin or a dominant-negative RhoA blocks AMPH-induced DAT internalization. These actions depend on AMPH entry into the cell and are blocked by the DAT inhibitor cocaine. AMPH also stimulates cAMP accumulation and PKA-dependent inactivation of RhoA, thus providing a mechanism whereby PKA- and RhoA-dependent signaling pathways can interact to regulate the timing and robustness of AMPH's effects on DAT internalization. Consistent with this model, the activation of D1/D5 receptors that couple to PKA in dopamine neurons antagonizes RhoA activation, DAT internalization, and hyperlocomotion observed in mice after AMPH treatment. These observations support the existence of an unanticipated intracellular target that mediates the effects of AMPH on RhoA and cAMP signaling and suggest new pathways to target to disrupt AMPH action.
Project description:Midbrain dopamine (mDA) neurons play a central role in reward signaling and are widely implicated in psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. To understand how mDA neurons perform these functions, it is important to understand how mDA-specific genes are regulated. However, cellular heterogeneity in the mammalian brain presents a major challenge to obtaining this understanding. To this end, we developed a virus-based approach to label and capture mDA nuclei for transcriptome (RNA-Seq), and low-input chromatin accessibility (liDNase-Seq) profiling, followed by predictive modeling to identify putative transcriptional regulators of mDA neurons. Using this method, we identified Gmeb1, a transcription factor predicted to regulate expression of Th and Dat, genes critical for dopamine synthesis and reuptake, respectively. Gmeb1 knockdown in mDA neurons resulted in downregulation of Th and Dat, as well as in severe motor deficits. This study thus identifies Gmeb1 as a master regulator of mDA gene expression and function, and provides a general method for identifying cell type-specific transcriptional regulators.. Overall design: mDA neurons were targeted by injection of an AAV-DIO-KASH-HA (KASH-HA) virus into the midbrain of dopamine transporter (DAT)-Cre heterozygous (het) mice. mDA KASH-HA tagged nuclei were FANS sotred for transcriptome (RNA-Seq), and low-input chromatin accessibility (liDNase-Seq) profiling. To study the transcriptional effects of Gmeb1 knockdown in mDA neurons, we generated RNA-Seq profiles of mDA neurons from (DAT)-Cre het mice injected with shGmeb1 or shScrambled virus.
Project description:The interactive effects of HIV-1 infection and methamphetamine (METH) abuse in producing cognitive dysfunction represent a serious medical problem; however, the neural mechanisms underlying this interactive neurotoxicity remain elusive. In this study, we report that a combination of low, sub-toxic doses of METH + HIV-1 Tat 1-86 B, but not METH + HIV-1 gp120, directly induces death of rodent midbrain neurons in vitro. The effects of D1- and NMDA-receptor specific antagonists (SCH23390 and MK-801, respectively) on the neurotoxicity of different doses of METH or HIV-1 Tat alone and on the METH + HIV-1Tat interaction in midbrain neuronal cultures suggest that the induction of the cell death cascade by METH and Tat requires both dopaminergic (D1) and N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated signaling. This interactive METH+Tat neurotoxicity does not occur in cultures of hippocampal neurons, which are predominately glutamatergic, express very low levels of dopamine receptors, and have no functional dopamine transporter (DAT). Thus, the presence of a subpopulation of neurons capable of dopamine release/uptake is essential for METH+Tat induction of the cell death cascade. Overall, our results support the hypothesis that METH and HIV-1 Tat disrupt the normal conjunction of signaling between D1 and NMDA receptors, resulting in neural dysfunction and death.
Project description:The ability of many drugs of abuse, including cocaine, to mediate reinforcement and drug-seeking behaviors is in part mediated by the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) system, in which CRH exerts its effects partly via the CRH receptor subtype 1 (CRHR1) in extra-hypothalamic areas. In fact, CRHR1 expressed in regions of the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system have been demonstrated to modify cocaine-induced DA release and alter cocaine-mediated behaviors. Here we examined the role of neuronal selectivity of CRHR1 within the mesolimbic system on cocaine-induced behaviors. First we used a transgenic mouse line expressing GFP under the control of the Crhr1 promoter for double fluorescence immunohistochemistry to demonstrate the cellular location of CRHR1 in both dopaminergic and D1 dopaminoceptive neurons. We then studied cocaine sensitization, self-administration, and reinstatement in inducible CRHR1 knockouts using the CreERT2/loxP in either dopamine transporter (DAT)-containing neurons (DAT-Crhr1) or dopamine receptor 1 (D1)-containing neurons (D1-Crhr1). For sensitization testing, mice received five daily injections of cocaine (15 mg/kg IP). For self-administration, mice received eight daily 2 h cocaine (0.5 mg/kg per infusion) self-administration sessions followed by extinction and reinstatement testing. There were no differences in the acute or sensitized locomotor response to cocaine in DAT-Crhr1 or D1-Crhr1 mice and their respective controls. Furthermore, both DAT-Crhr1 and D1-Crhr1 mice reliably self-administered cocaine at the level of controls. However, DAT-Crhr1 mice demonstrated a significant increase in cue-induced reinstatement relative to controls, whereas D1-Crhr1 mice demonstrated a significant decrease in cue-induced reinstatement relative to controls. These data demonstrate the involvement of CRHR1 in cue-induced reinstatement following cocaine self-administration, and implicate a bi-directional role of CRHR1 for cocaine craving.
Project description:The dopamine transporter (DAT) regulates the temporal and spatial actions of dopamine by reuptaking this neurotransmitter into the presynaptic neurons. We recently generated transgenic mice overexpressing DAT (DAT-tg) that have a 3-fold increase in DAT protein levels which results in a 40% reduction of the extracellular DA concentration in the striatum. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of this reduction in dopaminergic tone on postsynaptic responses mediated by dopamine receptors. We report here that DAT-tg mice have increased levels of striatal D1 (30%) and D2 (approximately 60%) dopamine receptors with D1 receptor signaling components not significantly altered, as evidenced by unaffected basal or stimulated levels of phospho-GluR1 (Ser845) and phospho-ERK2. However, the novel D2 mediated Akt signaling is markedly altered in DAT-tg animals. In particular, there is a 300% increase in the basal levels of phospho-Akt in the striatum of DAT-tg, reflecting the reduced extracellular dopamine tone in these animals. This increase in basal pAkt levels can be pharmacologically recapitulated by partial dopamine depletion in WT mice treated with the selective tyrosine hydroxylase inhibitor alpha-methyl-para-tyrosine (alpha-MPT). Behaviorally, DAT-tg animals demonstrate an augmented synergistic interaction between up-regulated D1 and D2 receptors, which results in increased climbing behavior in transgenic mice after stimulation with either apomorphine or a co-administration of selective D1 and D2 receptor agonists. In sum, our study reveals that hypodopaminegia caused by up-regulation of DAT results in significant alterations at postsynaptic receptor function with most notable dysregulation at the level of D2 receptor signaling.
Project description:The dopamine transporter is a key protein responsible for regulating dopamine homeostasis. Its function is to transport dopamine from the extracellular space into the presynaptic neuron. Studies have suggested that accumulation of dopamine in the cytosol can trigger oxidative stress and neurotoxicity. Previously, ectopic expression of the dopamine transporter was shown to cause damage in non-dopaminergic neurons due to their inability to handle cytosolic dopamine. However, it is unknown whether increasing dopamine transporter activity will be detrimental to dopamine neurons that are inherently capable of storing and degrading dopamine. To address this issue, we characterized transgenic mice that over-express the dopamine transporter selectively in dopamine neurons. We report that dopamine transporter over-expressing (DAT-tg) mice display spontaneous loss of midbrain dopamine neurons that is accompanied by increases in oxidative stress markers, 5-S-cysteinyl-dopamine and 5-S-cysteinyl-DOPAC. In addition, metabolite-to-dopamine ratios are increased and VMAT2 protein expression is decreased in the striatum of these animals. Furthermore, DAT-tg mice also show fine motor deficits on challenging beam traversal that are reversed with l-DOPA treatment. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that even in neurons that routinely handle dopamine, increased uptake of this neurotransmitter through the dopamine transporter results in oxidative damage, neuronal loss and l-DOPA reversible motor deficits. In addition, DAT over-expressing animals are highly sensitive to MPTP-induced neurotoxicity. The effects of increased dopamine uptake in these transgenic mice could shed light on the unique vulnerability of dopamine neurons in Parkinson's disease.