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Neuropharmacology. 2004;47 Suppl 1:80-91.

Rapid regulation of the dopamine transporter: role in stimulant addiction?

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Neuroscience Program, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center at Fitzsimons, Aurora, CO 80045-0508, USA.


Dopamine (DA) and the DA transporter (DAT) play important roles in psychomotor stimulant behavioral activation and reward. By understanding how DAT activity is regulated, we will better appreciate its contribution to normal neurotransmission and to brain diseases like drug addiction. DAT is regulated long-term by chronic drug administration. It is also regulated in a rapid, dynamic fashion by many factors--including brief exposure to DAT substrates, e.g. DA and amphetamine, and inhibitors, e.g. cocaine. We found that individual differences in the initial and sensitized locomotor responsiveness of rats to cocaine reflect differences in in vivo DAT function. Our ex vivo studies have further suggested that differences in basal and/or rapid cocaine-induced expression of functional DATs in striatum contribute to the differences in initial responsiveness. Studies in model systems have demonstrated that short-term DAT regulation occurs by altered transporter trafficking, and thereby cell surface expression. For example, a rapid, complex regulation of DAT by DA is suggested. Amphetamine causes DAT internalization into early endosomal compartments whereas cocaine appears to up-regulate surface expression of DAT. Future studies are needed to confirm these observations in neurons, as well as to elucidate the mechanisms of rapid DAT endocytic trafficking at neuronal synapses.

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