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Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2006;(175):373-415.

ADHD and the dopamine transporter: are there reasons to pay attention?

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Vanderbilt School of Medicine, Suite 7140, MRB III, Nashville, TN 37232-8548, USA.


The catecholamine dopamine (DA) plays an important role as a neurotransmitter in the brain in circuits linked to motor function, reward, and cognition. The presynaptic DA transporter (DAT) inactivates DA following release and provides a route for non-exocytotic DA release (efflux) triggered by amphetamines. The synaptic role of DATs first established through antagonist studies and more recently validated through mouse gene-knockout experiments, raises questions as to whether altered DAT structure or regulation support clinical disorders linked to compromised DA signaling, including drug abuse, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As ADHD appears to have highly heritable components and the most commonly prescribed therapeutics for ADHD target DAT, studies ranging from brain imaging to genomic and genetic analyses have begun to probe the DAT gene and its protein for possible contributions to the disorder and/or its treatment. In this review, after a brief overview of ADHD prevalence and diagnostic criteria, we examine the rationale and experimental findings surrounding a role for human DAT in ADHD. Based on the available evidence from our lab and labs of workers in the field, we suggest that although a common variant within the human DAT (hDAT) gene (SLC6A3) is unlikely to play a major role in the ADHD, contributions of hDAT to risk maybe most evident in phenotypic subgroups. The in vitro and in vivo validation of functional variants, pursued for contributions to endophenotypes in a within family approach, may help elucidate DAT and DA contributions to ADHD and its treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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