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The neurotrophic factor pleiotrophin modulates amphetamine-seeking behaviour and amphetamine-induced neurotoxic effects: evidence from pleiotrophin knockout mice


Gonzalo Herradon, Laboratory Pharmacology and Toxicology, Universidad San Pablo CEU, Urb. Montepríncipe, 28668 Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, Spain. E-mail:


Pleiotrophin (PTN), a neurotrophic factor with important roles in survival and differentiation of dopaminergic neurons, is up-regulated in the nucleus accumbens after amphetamine administration suggesting that PTN could modulate amphetamine-induced pharmacological or neuroadaptative effects. To test this hypothesis, we have studied the effects of amphetamine administration in PTN genetically deficient (PTN −/−) and wild type (WT, +/+) mice. In conditioning studies, we found that amphetamine induces conditioned place preference in both PTN −/− and WT (+/+) mice. When these mice were re-evaluated after a 5-day period without amphetamine administration, we found that WT (+/+) mice did not exhibit amphetamine-seeking behaviour, whereas, PTN −/− mice still showed a robust drug-seeking behaviour. In immunohystochemistry studies, we found that amphetamine (10 mg/kg, four times, every 2 hours) causes a significant increase of glial fibrillary acidic protein positive cells in the striatum of amphetamine-treated PTN −/− mice compared with WT mice 4 days after last administration of the drug, suggesting an enhanced amphetamine-induced astrocytosis in the absence of endogenous PTN. Interestingly, we found in concomitant in vitro studies that PTN (3 µM) limits amphetamine (1 mM)-induced loss of viability of PC12 cell cultures, effect that could be related to the ability of PTN to induce the phosphorylation of Akt and ERK1/2. To test this possibility, we used specific Akt and ERK1/2 inhibitors uncovering for the first time that PTN-induced protective effects against amphetamine-induced toxicity in PC12 cells are mediated by the ERK1/2 signalling pathway. The data suggest an important role of PTN to limit amphetamine-induced neurotoxic and rewarding effects.