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J Neurophysiol. 2008 Jul;100(1):533-8. doi: 10.1152/jn.01384.2007. Epub 2008 Apr 30.

Spike timing-dependent long-term potentiation in ventral tegmental area dopamine cells requires PKC.

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Nancy Pritzker Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94304-5485, USA.


Long-term potentiation (LTP) of excitatory synapses on ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) cells is thought to play an important role in mediating some of the behavioral effects of drugs of abuse yet little is known about its underlying mechanisms. We find that spike timing-dependent LTP (STD LTP) in VTA DA cells is absent in slices prepared from mice previously administered cocaine, suggesting that cocaine-induced LTP and STD LTP share underlying mechanisms. This form of STD LTP is dependent on NMDA receptor (NMDAR) activation and a rise in postsynaptic calcium but surprisingly was not affected by an inhibitor of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII). It was blocked by antagonists of conventional isoforms of PKC, whereas activation of protein kinase C (PKC) using a phorbol ester enhanced synaptic strength. These results suggest that NMDAR-mediated activation of PKC, but not CaMKII, is a critical trigger for LTP in VTA DA cells.

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