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2.  Chronic methylphenidate exposure during adolescence reduces striatal synaptic responses to ethanol 
Dopamine (DA) plays an important role in integrative functions contributing to adaptive behaviors. In support of this essential function, DA modulates synaptic plasticity in different brain areas, including the striatum. Many drugs used for cognitive enhancement are psychostimulants, such as methylphenidate (MPH), which enhance DA levels. MPH treatment is of interest during adolescence, a period of enhanced neurodevelopment during which the DA system is in a state of flux. Recent epidemiological studies report the co-abuse of MPH and ethanol in adolescents and young adults. Although repeated MPH treatment produces enduring changes that affect subsequent behavioral responses to other psychostimulants, few studies have investigated the interactions between MPH and ethanol. Here we addressed whether chronic therapeutic exposure to MPH during adolescence predisposed mice to an altered response to ethanol and whether this was accompanied by altered DA release and striatal plasticity. C57BL/6J mice were administered MPH (3–6 mg/kg/day) via the drinking water between post-natal days 30 and 60. Voltammetry experiments showed that sufficient brain MPH concentrations were achieved during adolescence in mice to increase the DA clearance in adulthood. The treatment also increased long-term depression and reduced the effects of ethanol on striatal synaptic responses. Although the injection of 0.4 or 2 g/kg ethanol dose-dependently decreased locomotion in control mice, only the higher dose decreased locomotion in MPH-treated mice. These results suggested that the administration of MPH during development promoted long-term effects on synaptic plasticity in forebrain regions targeted by DA. These changes in plasticity might, in turn, underlie alterations in behaviors controlled by these brain regions into adulthood.
PMCID: PMC4163970  PMID: 24236977
addiction; alcohol; dopamine; dorsal striatum; mouse
3.  Brain BLAQ: Post-hoc thick-section histochemistry for localizing optogenetic constructs in neurons and their distal terminals 
Optogenetic constructs have revolutionized modern neuroscience, but the ability to accurately and efficiently assess their expression in the brain and associate it with prior functional measures remains a challenge. High-resolution imaging of thick, fixed brain sections would make such post-hoc assessment and association possible; however, thick sections often display autofluorescence that limits their compatibility with fluorescence microscopy. We describe and evaluate a method we call “Brain BLAQ” (Block Lipids and Aldehyde Quench) to rapidly reduce autofluorescence in thick brain sections, enabling efficient axon-level imaging of neurons and their processes in conventional tissue preparations using standard epifluorescence microscopy. Following viral-mediated transduction of optogenetic constructs and fluorescent proteins in mouse cortical pyramidal and dopaminergic neurons, we used BLAQ to assess innervation patterns in the striatum, a region in which autofluorescence often obscures the imaging of fine neural processes. After BLAQ treatment of 250–350 μm-thick brain sections, axons and puncta of labeled afferents were visible throughout the striatum using a standard epifluorescence stereomicroscope. BLAQ histochemistry confirmed that motor cortex (M1) projections preferentially innervated the matrix component of lateral striatum, whereas medial prefrontal cortex projections terminated largely in dorsal striosomes and distinct nucleus accumbens subregions. Ventral tegmental area dopaminergic projections terminated in a similarly heterogeneous pattern within nucleus accumbens and ventral striatum. Using a minimal number of easily manipulated and visualized sections, and microscopes available in most neuroscience laboratories, BLAQ enables simple, high-resolution assessment of virally transduced optogenetic construct expression, and post-hoc association of this expression with molecular markers, physiology and behavior.
PMCID: PMC4316788
histochemistry; optogenetic neuroimaging; striosome and matrix compartments; tract-tracing; viral expression; Cre transgenic mouse
4.  Optogenetic Measurement of Presynaptic Calcium Transients Using Conditional Genetically Encoded Calcium Indicator Expression in Dopaminergic Neurons 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e111749.
Calcium triggers dopamine release from presynaptic terminals of midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neurons in the striatum. However, calcium transients within mDA axons and axon terminals are difficult to study and little is known about how they are regulated. Here we use a newly-developed method to measure presynaptic calcium transients (PreCaTs) in axons and terminals of mDA neurons with a genetically encoded calcium indicator (GECI) GCaMP3 expressed in transgenic mice. Using a photomultiplier tube-based system, we measured electrical stimulation-induced PreCaTs of mDA neurons in dorsolateral striatum slices from these mice. Single-pulse stimulation produced a transient increase in fluorescence that was completely blocked by a combination of N- and P/Q-type calcium channel blockers. DA and cholinergic, but not serotoninergic, signaling pathways modulated the PreCaTs in mDA fibers. These findings reveal heretofore unexplored dynamic modulation of presynaptic calcium in nigrostriatal terminals.
PMCID: PMC4216119  PMID: 25360513
5.  LRRK2 regulates synaptogenesis and dopamine receptor activation through modulation of PKA activity 
Nature neuroscience  2014;17(3):367-376.
Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) is enriched in the striatal projection neurons (SPNs). Here we show that LRRK2 negatively regulates protein kinase A (PKA) activity in the SPNs during synaptogenesis and in response to dopamine receptor Drd1 activation. LRRK2 interacted with PKA regulatory subunit IIβ (PKARIIβ). A lack of LRRK2 promoted the synaptic translocation of PKA and increased PKA-mediated phosphorylation of actin-disassembling enzyme cofilin and glutamate receptor GluR1, resulting in abnormal synaptogenesis and transmission in the developing SPNs. Furthermore, PKA-dependent phosphorylation of GluR1 was also aberrantly enhanced in the striatum of young and aged LRRK2-null mice after treatment with a Drd1 agonist. Notably, a Parkinson’s disease-related LRRK2 R1441C missense mutation that impaired the interaction of LRRK2 with PKARIIβ also induced excessive PKA activity in the SPNs. Our findings reveal a new regulatory role of LRRK2 in PKA signaling, and provide a new pathogenic mechanism of SPN dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3989289  PMID: 24464040
6.  Actions of Acute and Chronic Ethanol on Presynaptic Terminals 
This article presents the proceedings of a symposium entitled “The Tipsy Terminal: Presynaptic Effects of Ethanol” (held at the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, in Santa Barbara, CA, June 27, 2005). The objective of this symposium was to focus on a cellular site of ethanol action underrepresented in the alcohol literature, but quickly becoming a “hot” topic. The chairs of the session were Marisa Roberto and George Robert Siggins. Our speakers were chosen on the basis of the diverse electrophysiological and other methods used to discern the effects of acute and chronic ethanol on presynaptic terminals and on the basis of significant insights that their data provide for understanding ethanol actions on neurons in general, as mechanisms underlying problematic behavioral effects of alcohol. The 5 presenters drew from their recent studies examining the effects of acute and chronic ethanol using a range of sophisticated methods from electrophysiological analysis of paired-pulse facilitation and spontaneous and miniature synaptic currents (Drs. Weiner, Valenzuela, Zhu, and Morrisett), to direct recording of ion channel activity and peptide release from acutely isolated synaptic terminals (Dr. Treistman), to direct microscopic observation of vesicular release (Dr. Morrisett). They showed that ethanol administration could both increase and decrease the probability of release of different transmitters from synaptic terminals. The effects of ethanol on synaptic terminals could often be correlated with important behavioral or developmental actions of alcohol. These and other novel findings suggest that future analyses of synaptic effects of ethanol should attempt to ascertain, in multiple brain regions, the role of presynaptic terminals, relevant presynaptic receptors and signal transduction linkages, exocytotic mechanisms, and their involvement in alcohol’s behavioral actions. Such studies could lead to new treatment strategies for alcohol intoxication, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism.
PMCID: PMC4115792  PMID: 16441271
Alcohol; Synapses; GABA; Glutamate; Peptides; Intoxication
7.  Deep brain optical measurements of cell type–specific neural activity in behaving mice 
Nature protocols  2014;9(6):1213-1228.
Recent advances in genetically encoded fluorescent sensors enable the monitoring of cellular events from genetically defined groups of neurons in vivo. In this protocol, we describe how to use a time-correlated single-photon counting (tcspc)–based fiber optics system to measure the intensity, emission spectra and lifetime of fluorescent biosensors expressed in deep brain structures in freely moving mice. When combined with cre-dependent selective expression of genetically encoded ca2+ indicators (GecIs), this system can be used to measure the average neural activity from a specific population of cells in mice performing complex behavioral tasks. as an example, we used viral expression of GcaMps in striatal projection neurons (spns) and recorded the fluorescence changes associated with calcium spikes from mice performing a lever-pressing operant task. the whole procedure, consisting of virus injection, behavior training and optical recording, takes 3–4 weeks to complete. With minor adaptations, this protocol can also be applied to recording cellular events from other cell types in deep brain regions, such as dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area. the simultaneously recorded fluorescence signals and behavior events can be used to explore the relationship between the neural activity of specific brain circuits and behavior.
PMCID: PMC4100551  PMID: 24784819
8.  Concurrent Activation of Striatal Direct and Indirect Pathways During Action Initiation 
Nature  2013;494(7436):238-242.
The basal ganglia are subcortical nuclei that control voluntary actions, and are affected by a number of debilitating neurological disorders1–4. The prevailing model of basal ganglia function proposes that two orthogonal projection circuits originating from distinct populations of spiny projection neurons (SPNs) in the striatum5,6 - the so-called direct and indirect pathways - have opposing effects on movement: while activity of direct-pathway SPNs purportedly facilitates movement, activity of indirect-pathway SPNs inhibits movement1,2. This model has been difficult to test due to the lack of methods to selectively measure the activity of direct- and indirect-pathway SPNs in freely moving animals. We developed a novel in-vivo method that allowed us to specifically measure direct- and indirect-pathway SPN activity using Cre-dependent viral expression of the genetically encoded calcium indicator (GECI) GCAMP3 in the dorsal striatum of D1-Cre (direct-pathway specific6,7) and A2A-Cre (indirect-pathway specific8,9) mice10. Using fiber optics and time-correlated single photon counting (TCSPC) in mice performing an operant task, we observed transient increases in neural activity in both direct- and indirect-pathway SPNs when animals initiated actions, but not when they were inactive. Concurrent activation of SPNs from both pathways in one hemisphere preceded the initiation of contraversive movements, and predicted the occurrence of specific movements within 500 ms. These observations challenge the classical view of basal ganglia function, and may have implications for understanding the origin of motor symptoms in basal ganglia disorders.
PMCID: PMC4039389  PMID: 23354054
9.  Voltage drives diverse endocannabinoid signals to mediate striatal microcircuit-specific plasticity 
Nature neuroscience  2013;16(9):1275-1283.
The dorsolateral striatum and cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1) signaling mediate habitual action learning, which is thought to require a balance of activity in the direct and indirect striatal output pathways. However, very little is known about how the high CB1-expressing striatal inhibitory microcircuitry might contribute to long-term plasticity capable of sculpting direct/indirect pathway output. Using optogenetic and molecular interrogation of striatal GABAergic microcircuits, we describe novel mechanisms of voltage-dependent long-term depression of inhibitory synapses (iLTD) onto mouse and rat medium spiny projection neurons (MSNs). This iLTD involves recruitment of different endocannabinoid types and shows both presynaptic and postsynaptic selectivity for MSN subtypes, ultimately resulting in a powerful disinhibition of direct pathway MSNs. These results indicate a new role for voltage states in gating circuit-specific forms of synaptic plasticity and illuminate possible circuit dynamics underlying action control.
PMCID: PMC3758434  PMID: 23892554
10.  GluN2B in corticostriatal circuits governs choice learning and choice shifting 
Nature neuroscience  2013;16(8):1101-1110.
A choice that reliably produces a preferred outcome can be automated to liberate cognitive resources for other tasks. Should an outcome become less desirable, behavior must adapt in parallel or become perseverative. Corticostriatal systems are known to mediate choice learning and flexibility, but the molecular mechanisms subserving the instantiation of these processes are not well understood. We integrated mouse behavioral, immunocytochemical, in vivo electrophysiological, genetic, and pharmacological approaches to study choice. We found that the dorsal striatum (DS) was increasingly activated with choice learning, whereas reversal of learned choice engaged prefrontal regions. In vivo, DS neurons showed activity associated with reward anticipation and receipt that emerged with learning and relearning. Corticostriatal or striatal GluN2B gene deletion, or DS-restricted GluN2B antagonism, impaired choice learning, whereas cortical GluN2B deletion or OFC GluN2B antagonism impaired shifting. Our convergent data demonstrate how corticostriatal GluN2B circuits govern the ability to learn and shift choice behavior.
PMCID: PMC3725191  PMID: 23831965
11.  Repeated Binge-Like Ethanol Drinking Alters Ethanol Drinking Patterns and Depresses Striatal GABAergic Transmission 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2013;39(3):579-594.
Repeated cycles of binge alcohol drinking and abstinence are key components in the development of dependence. However, the precise behavioral mechanisms underlying binge-like drinking and its consequences on striatal synaptic physiology remain unclear. In the present study, ethanol and water drinking patterns were recorded with high temporal resolution over 6 weeks of binge-like ethanol drinking using the ‘drinking in the dark' (DID) protocol. The bottle exchange occurring at the beginning of each session prompted a transient increase in the drinking rate that might facilitate the acquisition of ethanol binge-like drinking. Ethanol drinking mice also displayed a ‘front-loading' behavior, in which the highest rate of drinking was recorded during the first 15 min. This rate increased over weeks and paralleled the mild escalation of blood ethanol concentrations. GABAergic and glutamatergic transmission in the dorsal striatum were examined following DID. Spontaneous glutamatergic transmission and the density of dendritic spines were unchanged after ethanol drinking. However, the frequency of GABAA receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents was depressed in medium spiny neurons of ethanol drinking mice. A history of ethanol drinking also increased ethanol preference and altered the acute ethanol effects on GABAergic transmission differentially in dorsolateral and dorsomedial striatum. Together, the study shows that the bottle exchange during DID promotes fast, voluntary ethanol drinking and that this intermittent pattern of ethanol drinking causes a depression of GABAergic transmission in the dorsal striatum.
PMCID: PMC3895236  PMID: 23995582
Repeated binge-like ethanol drinking alters ethanol drinking patterns and depresses striatal GABAergic transmission; alcohol; drinking in the dark; dendritic spines; dopamine; striatum; dorsolateral striatum
12.  Mutations M287L and Q266I in the Glycine Receptor α1 Subunit Change Sensitivity to Volatile Anesthetics in Oocytes and Neurons, but Not the Minimal Alveolar Concentration in Knockin Mice 
Anesthesiology  2012;117(4):765-771.
Volatile anesthetics (VAs) alter the function of key central nervous system proteins but it is not clear which, if any, of these targets mediates the immobility produced by VAs in the face of noxious stimulation. A leading candidate is the glycine receptor, a ligand-gated ion channel important for spinal physiology. VAs variously enhance such function, and blockade of spinal GlyRs with strychnine affects the minimal alveolar concentration (an anesthetic EC50) in proportion to the degree of enhancement.
We produced single amino acid mutations into the glycine receptorα1 subunit that increased (M287L, third transmembrane region) or decreased (Q266I, second transmembrane region) sensitivity to isoflurane in recombinant receptors, and introduced such receptors into mice. The resulting knockin mice presented impaired glycinergic transmission, but heterozygous animals survived to adulthood, and we determined the effect of isoflurane on glycine-evoked responses of brain stem neurons from the knockin mice, and the minimal alveolar concentration for isoflurane and other VAs in the immature and mature knockin mice.
Studies of glycine-evoked currents in brain stem neurons from knock-in mice confirmed the changes seen with recombinant receptors. No increases in the minimal alveolar concentration were found in knockin mice, but the minimal alveolar concentration for isoflurane and enflurane (but not halothane) decreased in 2-week-old Q266I mice. This change is opposite to the one expected for a mutation that decreases the sensitivity to volatile anesthetics.
Taken together, these results indicate that glycine receptors containing the α1 subunit are not likely to be crucial for the action of isoflurane and other VAs.
PMCID: PMC3447119  PMID: 22885675
13.  Reduced alcohol intake and reward associated with impaired endocannabinoid signaling in mice with a deletion of the glutamate transporter GLAST 
Neuropharmacology  2012;63(2):181-189.
A hyperglutamatergic state has been hypothesized to drive escalation of alcohol intake. This hypothesis predicts that an impairment of glutamate clearance through inactivation of the astrocytic glutamate transporter, GLAST (EAAT1), will result in escalation of alcohol consumption. Here, we used mice with a deletion of GLAST to test this prediction. WT and GLAST KO mice were tested for alcohol consumption using two-bottle free-choice drinking. Alcohol reward was evaluated using conditioned place preference (CPP). Sensitivity to depressant alcohol effects was tested using the accelerating rotarod, alcohol-induced hypothermia, and loss of righting reflex. Extracellular glutamate was measured using microdialysis, and striatal slice electrophysiology was carried out to examine plasticity of the cortico-striatal pathway as a model system in which adaptations to the constitutive GLAST deletion can be studied. Contrary to our hypothesis, GLAST KO mice showed markedly decreased alcohol consumption, and lacked CPP for alcohol, despite a higher locomotor response to this drug. Alcohol-induced ataxia, hypothermia, and sedation were unaffected. In striatal slices from GLAST KO mice, long-term depression (LTD) induced by high frequency stimulation, or by post-synaptic depolarization combined with the L-type calcium channel activator FPL 64176 was absent. In contrast, normal synaptic depression was observed after application of the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor agonist WIN55,212-2. Constitutive deletion of GLAST unexpectedly results in markedly reduced alcohol consumption and preference, associated with markedly reduced alcohol reward. Endocannabinoid signaling appears to be down-regulated upstream of the CB1 receptor as a result of the GLAST deletion, and is a candidate mechanism behind the reduction of alcohol reward observed.
PMCID: PMC3372600  PMID: 22342743
glutamate transporter; alcohol; reward; endocannabinoid
14.  An anticholinergic reverses motor control and corticostriatal LTD deficits in Dyt1 ΔGAG knock-in mice 
Behavioural brain research  2011;226(2):465-472.
DYT1 early-onset generalized torsion dystonia is an inherited movement disorder associated with mutations in DYT1 that codes for torsinA protein. The most common mutation seen in this gene is a trinucleotide deletion of GAG. We previously reported a motor control deficit on a beam-walking task in our Dyt1 ΔGAG knock-in heterozygous mice. In this report we show the reversal of this motor deficit with the anticholinergic trihexyphenidyl (THP), a drug commonly used to treat movement problems in dystonia patients. THP also restored the reduced corticostriatal long-term depression (LTD) observed in these mice. Corticostriatal LTD has long been known to be dependent on D2 receptor activation. In this mouse model, striatal D2 receptors were expressed at lower quantities in comparison to wild-type mice. Furthermore, the mice were also partially resistant to FPL64176, an agonist of L-type calcium channels that have been previously reported to cause severe dystonic-like symptoms in wild-type mice. Our findings collectively suggest that altered communication between cholinergic interneurons and medium spiny neurons is responsible for the LTD deficit and that this synaptic plasticity modification may be involved in the striatal motor control abnormalities in our mouse model of DYT1 dystonia.
PMCID: PMC3225290  PMID: 21995941
dopamine receptor; dystonia; long-term depression; torsinA; trihexyphenidyl
15.  Conditional Expression of Parkinson disease-related Mutant α-synuclein in the Midbrain Dopaminergic Neurons causes Progressive Neurodegeneration and Degradation of Transcription Factor Nuclear Receptor Related 1 
α-synuclein(α-syn) plays a prominent role in the degeneration of midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neurons in Parkinson disease (PD). However, only a few studies on α-syn have been carried out in the mDA neurons in vivo, which may be attributed to a lack of α-syn transgenic mice that develop PD-like severe degeneration of mDA neurons. To gain mechanistic insights into the α-syn-induced mDA neurodegeneration, we generated a new line of tetracycline-regulated inducible transgenic mice that overexpressed the PD-related α-syn A53T missense mutation in the mDA neurons. Here we show that the mutant mice developed profound motor disabilities and robust mDA neurodegeneration, resembling some key motor and pathological phenotypes of PD. We further systematically examined the subcellular abnormalities appeared in the mDA neurons of mutant mice, and observed a profound decrease of dopamine release, the fragmentation of Golgi apparatus, and impairments of autophagy/lysosome degradation pathways in these neurons. To further understand the specific molecular events leading to the α-syn-dependent degeneration of mDA neurons, we found that over-expression of α-syn promoted a proteasome-dependent degradation of nuclear receptor related 1 protein (Nurr1); while inhibition of Nurr1 degradation ameliorated the α-syn-induced loss of mDA neurons. Given that Nurr1 plays an essential role in maintaining the normal function and survival of mDA neurons, our studies suggest that the α-syn-mediated suppression of Nurr1 protein expression may contribute to the preferential vulnerability of mDA neurons in the pathogenesis of PD.
PMCID: PMC3417246  PMID: 22764233
16.  Subsets of Spiny Striosomal Striatal Neurons Revealed in the Gad1-GFP BAC Transgenic Mouse 
Basal Ganglia  2011;1(4):201-211.
To characterize GFP-expressing cells in the striatum of Cb6-Tg(Gad1-EGFP)G42Zjh/J mice, in which the Gad1 (also referred to as GAD67) promoter drives GFP expression (Gad1-GFP mouse).
GFP-expressing cells of the GAD1-GFP mouse have been described to be a population of parvalbumin-positive basket interneurons residing in the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum. However, the cells in the dorsal striatum of these mice have not been characterized.
Using a combination of immunohistochemistry, electrophysiology, DiI labeling, and retrograde tracing, we investigated the phenotypes of GFP-expressing cells in the GAD1-GFP mice.
A small number of striatal neurons express GFP in these mice. In the mature striatum, these cells are preferentially located in the lateral striatum with a strong expression in the lateral striatal streak. The GAD1-GFP positive neurons are distinct from the standard fast-spiking and low-threshold-spiking GAD-67 expressing striatal interneurons and appear to be a subset of medium spiny neurons. These neurons are generally colocalized with striosomal markers such as dynorphin, mu-opioid receptors, as well as CB1 and calretinin-immunopositive fibers. Striatal Gad1-GFP neurons can be separated into two groups based on the shape of the somata and patterns of action potential firing. Retrograde labeling indicated that a proportion of these cells are projection neurons.
The examination of GAD1-GFP cells in these mice revealed 2 subpopulations of ventral striosomal striatal medium spiny neurons, based on morphology, patch-matrix segregation and membrane properties.
PMCID: PMC3225898  PMID: 22140656
Basal Ganglia; Patch; GABA; Medium Spiny Neuron; BAC Transgenic
17.  A Common Molecular Basis for Exogenous and Endogenous Cannabinoid Potentiation of Glycine Receptors* 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2012;32(15):5200-5208.
Both exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids can allosterically modulate glycine receptors (GlyRs). However, little is known about the molecular basis of cannabinoid-GlyR interactions. Here we report that sustained incubation with endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) substantially increased the amplitude of Gly-activated current in both rat cultured spinal neurons and in HEK-293 cells expressing human α1, rat α2 and α3 GlyRs. While the α1 and α3 subunits were highly sensitive to AEA-induced potentiation, the α2 subunit was relatively insensitive to AEA. Switching a serine at 296 and 307 in the TM3 of the α1 and α3 subunits with an alanine (A) at the equivalent position in the α2 subunit converted the α1/α3 AEA sensitive receptors to sensitivity resembling that of α2. The S296 residue is also critical for exogenous cannabinoid-induced potentiation of IGly. The magnitude of AEA potentiation decreased with removal of either the hydroxyl or oxygen groups on AEA. While desoxy-AEA was significantly less potent in potentiating IGly, desoxy-AEA inhibited potentiation produced by both Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a major psychoactive component of marijuana, and AEA. Similarly, didesoxy-THC, a modified THC with removal of both hydroxyl/oxygen groups, did not affect IGly when applied alone but inhibited the potentiation of IGly induced by AEA and THC. These findings suggest that exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids potentiate GlyRs via a hydrogen bonding-like interaction. Such a specific interaction likely stems from a common molecular basis involving the S296 residue in the TM3 of the α1 and α3 subunits.
PMCID: PMC3334839  PMID: 22496565
18.  Organophosphates dysregulate dopamine signaling, glutamatergic neurotransmission, and induce neuronal injury markers in striatum 
Journal of neurochemistry  2011;119(2):303-313.
The neurological effects of organophosphate pesticides, commonly used on foods and in households, are an important public health concern. Furthermore, subclinical exposure to combinations of organophosphates is implicated in Gulf War illness. Here we characterized the effects of the broadly-used insecticide chlorpyrifos on dopamine and glutamatergic neurotransmission effectors in corticostriatal motor/reward circuitry. Chlorpyrifos potentiated PKA-dependent phosphorylation of the striatal protein DARPP-32 and the GluR1 subunit of AMPA receptors in mouse brain slices. It also increased GluR1 phosphorylation by PKA when administered systemically. This correlated with enhanced glutamate release from cortical projections in rat striatum. Similar effects were induced by the sarin congener, diisopropyl fluorophosphate, alone or in combination with the putative neuroprotectant, pyridostigmine bromide and the pesticide DEET. This combination, meant to mimic the neurotoxicant exposure encountered by veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, also induced hyperphosphorylation of the neurofibrillary tangle-associated protein tau. Diisopropyl fluorophosphate and pyrodostigmine bromide, alone or in combination, also increased the aberrant activity of the protein kinase, Cdk5, as indicated by conversion of its activating cofactor p35 to p25. Thus consistent with recent findings in humans and animals, organophosphate exposure causes dysregulation in the motor/reward circuitry and invokes mechanisms associated with neurological disorders and neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC3188672  PMID: 21848865
insecticide; dopamine; neurotoxicity; organophosphate; chlorpyrifos; Gulf War Illness
This report addresses recent advances in our understanding of the role of the dorsolateral (DLS), dorsomedial (DMS), and ventral striatum in behavioral responses to alcohol, including alcohol craving in abstinent alcoholics, and alcohol consumption and withdrawal in rat, mouse and nonhuman primate models. Recent data are discussed showing that reduced neuronal activity as well as dysfunctional connectivity between the ventral striatum and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is associated with alcohol craving and impairment of new learning processes in abstinent alcoholics. Emerging results show that, within the DLS of mice and nonhuman primates withdrawn from alcohol after chronic exposure, glutamatergic transmission in striatal projection neurons (medium spiny neurons, MSNs) is increased, while GABAergic transmission is decreased. Glutamatergic transmission in DMS MSNs is also increased in ethanol withdrawn rats. Ex vivo or in vivo ethanol exposure and withdrawal causes a long-lasting increase in NR2B subunit-containing NMDA receptor activity in the DMS, contributing to ethanol-drinking. Analyses of neuronal activation associated with alcohol withdrawal and site-directed lesions implicate the rostroventral caudate putamen (rvCP), a ventrolateral segment of the DMS, in genetically determined differences in risk for alcohol withdrawal in mice. The influence of the identified risk factor on alcohol withdrawal may be involved in physical association of the multi-PDZ domain protein, MPDZ, with 5-HT2C receptors and/or NR2B within the rvCP. Taken together, these studies increase our understanding of the role of dopaminergic, glutamatergic and GABAergic signaling within different regions of the striatum in alcohol craving, consumption, dependence and withdrawal in humans and animal models.
PMCID: PMC3276303  PMID: 21615425
PET; fMRI; electrophysiology; self-administration; Fyn kinase; c-Fos
20.  Genetic Inhibition of CaMKII in Dorsal Striatal Medium Spiny Neurons Reduces Functional Excitatory Synapses and Enhances Intrinsic Excitability 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45323.
Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) is abundant in striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs). CaMKII is dynamically regulated by changes in dopamine signaling, as occurs in Parkinson's disease as well as addiction. Although CaMKII has been extensively studied in the hippocampus where it regulates excitatory synaptic transmission, relatively little is known about how it modulates neuronal function in the striatum. Therefore, we examined the impact of selectively overexpressing an EGFP-fused CaMKII inhibitory peptide (EAC3I) in striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs) using a novel transgenic mouse model. EAC3I-expressing cells exhibited markedly decreased excitatory transmission, indicated by a decrease in the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs). This decrease was not accompanied by changes in the probability of release, levels of glutamate at the synapse, or changes in dendritic spine density. CaMKII regulation of the AMPA receptor subunit GluA1 is a major means by which the kinase regulates neuronal function in the hippocampus. We found that the decrease in striatal excitatory transmission seen in the EAC3I mice is mimicked by deletion of GluA1. Further, while CaMKII inhibition decreased excitatory transmission onto MSNs, it increased their intrinsic excitability. These data suggest that CaMKII plays a critical role in setting the excitability rheostat of striatal MSNs by coordinating excitatory synaptic drive and the resulting depolarization response.
PMCID: PMC3448631  PMID: 23028932
21.  Cocaine supersensitivity and enhanced motivation for reward in mice lacking dopamine D2 autoreceptors 
Nature neuroscience  2011;14(8):1033-1038.
Dopamine (DA) D2 receptors expressed in DA neurons (D2 autoreceptors) exert a negative feedback regulation that reduces DA neuron firing, DA synthesis and DA release. As D2 receptors are mostly expressed in postsynaptic neurons, pharmacological and genetic approaches have been unable to definitively address the in vivo contribution of D2 autoreceptors to DA-mediated behaviors. We found that midbrain DA neurons from mice deficient in D2 autoreceptors (Drd2loxP/loxP; Dat+/IRES-cre, referred to as autoDrd2KO mice) lacked DA-mediated somatodendritic synaptic responses and inhibition of DA release. AutoDrd2KO mice displayed elevated DA synthesis and release, hyperlocomotion and supersensitivity to the psychomotor effects of cocaine. The mice also exhibited increased place preference for cocaine and enhanced motivation for food reward. Our results highlight the importance of D2 autoreceptors in the regulation of DA neurotransmission and demonstrate that D2 autoreceptors are important for normal motor function, food-seeking behavior, and sensitivity to the locomotor and rewarding properties of cocaine.
PMCID: PMC3175737  PMID: 21743470
22.  Selective activation of cholinergic interneurons enhances accumbal phasic dopamine release: setting the tone for reward processing 
Cell reports  2012;2(1):33-41.
Dopamine (DA) plays a critical role in motor control, addiction and reward-seeking behaviors, and its release dynamics have traditionally been linked to changes in midbrain dopamine neuron activity. Here, we report that selective endogenous cholinergic activation achieved via in vitro optogenetic stimulation of nucleus accumbens (NAc), a terminal field of dopaminergic neurons, elicits real-time DA release. This mechanism occurs via direct actions on DA terminals, does not require changes in neuron firing within the midbrain and is dependent on glutamatergic receptor activity. More importantly, we demonstrate that in vivo selective activation of cholinergic interneurons (CINs) is sufficient to elicit DA release in the NAc. Therefore, the control of accumbal extracellular DA levels by endogenous cholinergic activity results from a complex convergence of neurotransmitter/neuromodulator systems that may ultimately synergize to drive motivated behavior.
PMCID: PMC3408582  PMID: 22840394
23.  Fluorophore assisted light inactivation (FALI) of recombinant 5-HT3A receptor constitutive internalization and function 
Fluorescent proteins and molecules are now widely used to tag and visualize proteins resulting in an improved understanding of protein trafficking, localization, and function. In addition, fluorescent tags have also been used to inactivate protein function in a spatially and temporally-defined manner, using a technique known as fluorophore-assisted light inactivation (FALI) or chromophore-assisted light inactivation (CALI). In this study we tagged the serotonin3 A subunit with the α-bungarotoxin binding sequence (BBS) and subsequently labeled 5-HT3A/BBS receptors with fluorescently conjugated α-bungarotoxin in live cells. We show that 5-HT3A/BBS receptors are constitutively internalized in the absence of an agonist and internalization as well as receptor function are inhibited by fluorescence. The fluorescence-induced disruption of function and internalization was reduced with oxygen radical scavengers suggesting the involvement of reactive oxygen species, implicating the FALI process. Furthermore, these data suggest that intense illumination during live-cell microscopy may result in inadvertent FALI and inhibition of protein trafficking.
PMCID: PMC3172681  PMID: 21338684
5-Hydroxytryptamine type 3 (5-HT3) receptors; Fluorophore assisted light inactivation; Constitutive internalization; Electrophysiology
24.  Endocannabinoid–Dopamine Interactions in Striatal Synaptic Plasticity 
The nigrostriatal dopaminergic system is implicated in action control and learning. A large body of work has focused on the contribution of this system to modulation of the corticostriatal synapse, the predominant synapse type in the striatum. Signaling through the D2 dopamine receptor is necessary for endocannabinoid-mediated depression of corticostriatal glutamate release. Here we review the known details of this mechanism and discuss newly discovered signaling pathways interacting with this system that ultimately exert dynamic control of cortical input to the striatum and striatal output. This topic is timely with respect to Parkinson’s disease given recent data indicating changes in the striatal endocannabinoid system in patients with this disorder.
PMCID: PMC3329863  PMID: 22529814
long-term depression; CB1; serotonin; 5-HT1b; adenosine; Parkinson’s disease; medium spiny neuron
25.  N-Docosahexaenoylethanolamide promotes development of hippocampal neurons 
The Biochemical journal  2011;435(2):327-336.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, C22:6,n−3) has been shown to promote neurite growth and synaptogenesis in embryonic hippocampal neurons, supporting the importance of DHA known for hippocampus-related learning and memory function. In the present study, we demonstrate that DHA metabolism to DEA (N-docosahexaenoylethanolamide) is a significant mechanism for hippocampal neuronal development, contributing to synaptic function. We found that a fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitor URB597 potentiates DHA-induced neurite growth, synaptogenesis and synaptic protein expression. Active metabolism of DHA to DEA was observed in embryonic day 18 hippocampal neuronal cultures, which was increased further by URB597. Synthetic DEA promoted hippocampal neurite growth and synaptogenesis at substantially lower concentrations in comparison with DHA. DEA-treated neurons increased the expression of synapsins and glutamate receptor subunits and exhibited enhanced glutamatergic synaptic activity, as was the case for DHA. The DEA level in mouse fetal hippocampi was altered according to the maternal dietary supply of n−3 fatty acids, suggesting that DEA formation is a relevant in vivo process responding to the DHA status. In conclusion, DHA metabolism to DEA is a significant biochemical mechanism for neurite growth, synaptogenesis and synaptic protein expression, leading to enhanced glutamatergic synaptic function. The novel DEA-dependent mechanism offers a new molecular insight into hippocampal neurodevelopment and function.
PMCID: PMC3169088  PMID: 21281269
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); N-docosahexaenoylethanolamide (DEA); hippocampus; neurite growth; neuron; synaptogenesis

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