• behavioral sensitization;
  • psychostimulants;
  • radioimmunocytochemistry;
  • synaptic plasticity


Structural studies have shown that chronic regimens of psychostimulants increase dendritic spine number in the rat striatum. The present study used Western blotting and radioimmunocytochemistry to examine psychostimulant-induced changes in the levels of spinophilin, a protein found abundantly in dendritic spines. Spinophilin determinations were conducted in striatum as well as several other subcortical regions implicated in psychostimulant-induced neuroplasticity. Rats received an escalating (1–8 mg/kg) dosing regimen of d-amphetamine (twice daily, i.p.) for 5 weeks, were tested for locomotor sensitization, and were killed 28 days later. This amphetamine dosing regimen was found to induce a significant sensitization of locomotor activity in these animals. Using both Western blotting and radioimmunocytochemistry, spinophilin protein was found to be upregulated in the striatum of amphetamine-treated rats. In addition, radioimmunocytochemistry revealed that spinophilin was increased in the septum, hippocampus, amygdala and the cingulate cortex, and was unchanged in sensorimotor cortices. Because it binds to F-actin and protein phosphatase-1, spinophilin has been proposed as a protein linking synaptic transmission to changes in spine morphology. Radioimmunocytochemistry for spinophilin provides a novel approach to identification of brain regions whose neurons undergo dendritic change after chronic exposure to drugs of abuse.