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Keywords:

  • basal ganglia;
  • enkephalin;
  • hyperactivity;
  • in situ hybridization;
  • knockout;
  • substance P

Abstract

Mice with a genetic disruption of the dopamine transporter (DAT–/–) exhibit locomotor hyperactivity and profound alterations in the homeostasis of the nigrostriatal system, e.g. a dramatic increase in the extracellular dopamine level. Here, we investigated the adaptive changes in dopamine D1, D2 and D3 receptor gene expression in the caudate putamen and nucleus accumbens of DAT–/– mice. We used quantitative in situ hybridization and found that the constitutive hyperdopaminergia results in opposite regulations in the gene expression for the dopamine receptors. In DAT–/– mice, we observed increased mRNA levels encoding the D3 receptor (caudate putamen, +60–85%; nucleus accumbens, +40–107%), and decreased mRNA levels for both D1 (caudate putamen, −34%; nucleus accumbens, −45%) and D2 receptors (caudate putamen, −36%; nucleus accumbens, −33%). Furthermore, we assessed the phenotypical organization of the striatal efferent neurons by using double in situ hybridization. Our results show that in DAT+/+ mice, D1 and D2 receptor mRNAs are segregated in two different main populations corresponding to substance P and preproenkephalin A mRNA-containing neurons, respectively. The phenotype of D1 or D2 mRNA-containing neurons was unchanged in both the caudate putamen and nucleus accumbens of DAT–/– mice. Interestingly, we found an increased density of preproenkephalin A-negative neurons that express the D3 receptor mRNA in the nucleus accumbens (core, +35%; shell, +46%) of DAT–/– mice. Our data further support the critical role for the D3 receptor in the regulation of D1–D2 interactions, an action being restricted to neurons coexpressing D1 and D3 receptors in the nucleus accumbens.