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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005 Oct;30(10):1818-31.

Novelty seeking and stereotypic activation of behavior in mice with disruption of the Dat1 gene.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Disruption of the dopamine (DA) transporter (Dat1) gene in mice leads to a 50% reduction or complete elimination of Dat1 expression in striatum of respective heterozygous (HZ) and knockout (KO) mice. Compared to wild-type (WT) controls, extracellular DA is increased approximately two- and five-fold in the mutants. Although open field (OF) activity is similar for WT and HZ animals, it is enhanced for KO mice. The purpose of the present investigations was to study spontaneously emitted behaviors and to determine the behavioral and neurochemical mechanisms that may contribute to the hyperactivity of KO animals. Heterozygotes are less anxious than other genotypes and they engage in novelty-seeking behaviors that include increased time spent in the center of the OF, enhanced investigation of objects, and augmented free exploration of a novel environment. By comparison, KO mice display neophobia when initially exposed to novel conditions. Over time the anxiety-like response habituates and behaviors become activated and stereotyped; these responses are unrelated to exploration or novelty seeking. No alterations in extracellular DA levels or tissue contents from several brain regions are detected at the time of stereotypic activation of KO mice. By contrast, this behavior is accompanied by changes in serotonin metabolism in basal ganglia. This feature may contribute to the behavioral inflexibility of KO mice in different experimental contexts. Collectively, these findings suggest that disruption of the Dat1 gene in mice leads to two different phenotypes; one related to anxiety-reducing and novelty seeking, while the other has some homology to disorders with a stereotypical-perseverative spectrum.

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