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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2001 Jul-Aug;69(3-4):409-18.

Iron deficiency decreases dopamine D1 and D2 receptors in rat brain.

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Department of Nutrition, Graduate Program in Nutrition, The Pennsylvania State University, S-126 Henderson Building, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


Iron deficiency (ID) in early life is known to alter neurological development and functioning, but data regarding specific effects on dopamine biology are lacking. The objective of this study was to determine the extent of functional alterations in dopamine receptors in two dopaminergic tracts in young, growing, iron-deficient rats. Forty male and 40 female weanling Sprague-Dawley rats were fed either an iron-deficient (ID) diet or control (CN) diet for 6 weeks. ID decreased densities of D(1) and D(2) receptors in the caudate-putamen and decreased D(2) receptor densities in the nucleus accumbens. There were no apparent effects of ID on the affinities for the ligands in either receptor in several brain regions. In situ hybridization studies for both dopamine receptors revealed no significant effect of ID on mRNA expression for either receptor. Iron-deficient rats had a significantly higher ED(50) for raclopride-induced hypolocomotion in male and female rats compared to control rats of each sex. The loss of iron in the striatum due to dietary ID was significantly correlated with the decrease in D(2) receptor density; however, this relationship was not apparent in other brain regions. These experiments thus demonstrate abnormal dopamine receptor density and functioning in several brain regions that are related to brain regional iron loss. Importantly, the impact of ID on dopamine was more pronounced in males than females, demonstrating sex-related different sensitivities to nutrient deprivation.

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