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Keywords:

  • Cocaine;
  • dopamine transporter;
  • dopamine;
  • methylphenidate;
  • nucleus accumbens;
  • self-administration

ABSTRACT

Methylphenidate (MPH) is a commonly abused psychostimulant prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. MPH has a mechanism of action similar to cocaine (COC) and is commonly characterized as a dopamine transporter (DAT) blocker. While there has been extensive work aimed at understanding dopamine (DA) nerve terminal changes following COC self-administration, very little is known about the effects of MPH self-administration on the DA system. We used fast scan cyclic voltammetry in nucleus accumbens core slices from animals with a 5-day self-administration history of 40 injections/day of either MPH (0.56 mg/kg) or COC (1.5 mg/kg) to explore alterations in baseline DA release and uptake kinetics as well as alterations in the interaction of each compound with the DAT. Although MPH and COC have similar behavioral effects, the consequences of self-administration on DA system parameters were found to be divergent. We show that COC self-administration reduced DAT levels and maximal rates of DA uptake, as well as reducing electrically stimulated release, suggesting decreased DA terminal function. In contrast, MPH self-administration increased DAT levels, DA uptake rates and DA release, suggesting enhanced terminal function, which was supported by findings of increased metabolite/DA tissue content ratios. Tyrosine hydroxylase messenger RNA, protein and phosphorylation levels were also assessed in both groups. Additionally, COC self-administration reduced COC-induced DAT inhibition, while MPH self-administration increased MPH-induced DAT inhibition, suggesting opposite pharmacodynamic effects of these two drugs. These findings suggest that the factors governing DA system adaptations are more complicated than simple DA uptake blockade.