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Alcohol. 2011 Jun;45(4):325-39. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2010.12.006. Epub 2011 Feb 26.

Dopamine dynamics associated with, and resulting from, schedule-induced alcohol self-administration: analyses in dopamine transporter knockout mice.

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Department of Psychology, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152, USA. g.mittleman@mail.psyc.memphis.ed


Preclinical and clinical evidence suggest an association between alcoholism and the primary regulator of extracellular dopamine concentrations, the dopamine transporter (DAT). However, the nature of this association is unclear. We determined if 10 days of voluntary alcohol self-administration followed by withdrawal could directly alter DAT function, or if genetically mediated changes in DAT function and/or availability could influence vulnerability to alcohol abuse. Heterozygous (DAT+/-) and homozygous mutant (DAT-/-) and wild-type (DAT+/+) mice were allowed to consume 5% alcohol in a schedule-induced polydipsia (SIP) task. In vivo fixed potential amperometry in anesthetized mice was used to (1) identify functional characteristics of mesoaccumbens dopamine neurons related to genotype, including dopamine autoreceptor (DAR) sensitivity, DAT efficiency, and DAT capacity, (2) determine if any of these characteristics correlated with alcohol drinking observed in DAT+/+ and DAT+/- animals, and (3) determine if SIP-alcohol self-administration altered DAR sensitivity, DAT efficiency, and DAT capacity by comparing these characteristics in wild-type (DAT+/+) mice that were SIP-alcohol naïve, with those that had undergone SIP-alcohol testing. DAT-/- mice consumed significantly less alcohol during testing and this behavioral difference was related to significant differences in DAR sensitivity, DAT efficiency, and DAT capacity. These functional characteristics were correlated to varying degrees with g/kg alcohol consumption in DAT+/+ and DAT+/- mice. DAR sensitivity was consistently reduced and DAT efficiency was enhanced in SIP-alcohol-experienced DAT+/+ mice when compared with naïve animals. These results indicate that DAR sensitivity is reduced by SIP-alcohol consumption and that DAT efficiency is modified by genotype and SIP-alcohol exposure. DAT capacity appeared to be strictly associated with SIP-alcohol consumption.

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