Impact of 6-hydroxydopamine lesions and cocaine exposure on µ-opioid receptor expression and regulation of cholinergic transmission in the limbic–prefrontal territory of the rat dorsal striatum


Dr Marie-Louise Kemel, 1INSERM, U667, as above.


Information processing within the striatum is regulated by local circuits involving dopamine, cholinergic interneurons and neuropeptides released by recurrent collaterals of striatal output neurons. In the limbic–prefrontal territory of the dorsal striatum, enkephalin inhibits the NMDA-evoked release of acetylcholine directly through µ-opioid receptors (MORs) located on cholinergic interneurons and indirectly through MORs of output neurons of striosomes. In this territory, we investigated the consequence of changes in dopamine transmission, bilateral 6-hydroxydopamine-induced degeneration of striatal dopaminergic innervation or cocaine (acute and chronic) exposure on (i) MOR expression in both cholinergic interneurons and output neurons of striosomes, and (ii) the direct and indirect enkephalin–MOR regulations of the NMDA-evoked release of acetylcholine. Expression of MORs in cholinergic interneurons was preserved after 6-hydroxydopamine and down-regulated after cocaine treatments. Accordingly, the direct enkephalin–MOR control of acetylcholine release was preserved after 6-hydroxydopamine treatment and lost after cocaine exposure. Expression of MORs in output neurons of striosomes was down-regulated in the 6-hydroxydopamine situation and either preserved or up-regulated after acute or chronic cocaine exposure, respectively. Accordingly, the indirect enkephalin–MOR control of acetylcholine release disappeared in the 6-hydroxydopamine situation but surprisingly, despite preservation of MORs in striosomes, disappeared after cocaine treatment. Showing that MORs of striosomes are still functional in this situation, the MOR agonist [D-Ala2,N-Me-Phe4,Gly5-ol]-enkephalin inhibited the NMDA-evoked release of acetylcholine after cocaine exposure. Therefore, alteration in the regulation of cholinergic transmission by the enkephalin–MOR system might play a major role in the motivational and cognitive disorders associated with dopamine dysfunctions in fronto-cortico-basal ganglia circuits.