Drugs of abuse engage overlapping but distinct molecular and cellular mechanisms to enhance dopamine (DA) signaling in the mesocorticolimbic circuitry. DA neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are key substrates of drugs of abuse and have been implicated in addiction-related behaviors. Enhanced VTA DA neurotransmission evoked by drugs of abuse can engage inhibitory G-protein-dependent feedback pathways, mediated by GABAB receptors (GABABRs) and D2 DA receptors (D2Rs). Chemogenetic inhibition of VTA DA neurons potently suppressed baseline motor activity, as well as the motor-stimulatory effect of cocaine and morphine, confirming the critical influence of VTA DA neurons and inhibitory G-protein signaling in these neurons on this addiction-related behavior. To resolve the relative influence of GABABR-dependent and D2R-dependent signaling pathways in VTA DA neurons on behavioral sensitivity to drugs of abuse, we developed a neuron-specific viral CRISPR/Cas9 approach to ablate D2R and GABABR in VTA DA neurons. Ablation of GABABR or D2R did not impact baseline physiological properties or excitability of VTA DA neurons, but it did preclude the direct somatodendritic inhibitory influence of GABABR or D2R activation. D2R ablation potentiated the motor-stimulatory effect of cocaine in male and female mice, whereas GABABR ablation selectively potentiated cocaine-induced activity in male subjects only. Neither D2R nor GABABR ablation impacted morphine-induced motor activity. Collectively, our data show that cocaine and morphine differ in the extent to which they engage inhibitory G-protein-dependent feedback pathways in VTA DA neurons and highlight key sex differences that may impact susceptibility to various facets of addiction.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants DA034696 and AA027544 (to K.W.), DA007234 (to M.C.D.), DA041767 (to N.M.M.), AA026598 (to A.M.L.), and the University of Minnesota Viral Vector and Cloning Core (DA048742).
© 2021 DeBaker et al.
- D2 dopamine receptor
- GABA receptor
- Sex differences
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't