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J Neurosci. 2008 Mar 5;28(10):2375-82. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5064-07.2008.

Transient D1 dopamine receptor expression on prefrontal cortex projection neurons: relationship to enhanced motivational salience of drug cues in adolescence.

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McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts 02478, USA.


Adolescence is a transitional period during development that is associated with a greater likelihood of addiction to drugs than any other age. In the prefrontal cortex (PFC), D(1) dopamine receptors mediate motivational salience attribution, which plays a role in addiction. Here, we investigated the relationship of age-related D(1) dopamine receptor expression in the PFC with the maturation of cocaine place conditioning. Confocal microscopy revealed that retrogradely traced cortical output neurons to the nucleus accumbens express higher levels of D(1) receptors during adolescence compared with younger and older ages. D(1) expression does not change on GABAergic interneurons across age. Adolescent differences in D(1) expression occur independently of cortical-accumbens connectivity, which proliferates through adulthood. Behaviorally, adolescent rats are more sensitive to cocaine place conditioning than younger and older rats. However, microinjections of the D(1) antagonist SCH23390 into the PFC blocked adolescent place preferences, whereas microinjections of D(1) agonists dose-dependently increased preferences for cocaine-associated environments previously not preferred by juveniles. These results suggest that the heightened expression of D(1) receptors on cortical-accumbens projections may help explain increased sensitivity to environmental events and addictive behaviors during adolescence, whereas the paucity of D(1)-expressing projections may reduce risk in juveniles.

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