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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011 Aug;216(3):401-10. doi: 10.1007/s00213-011-2228-1. Epub 2011 Mar 2.

Probing the molecular basis for an inherited sensitivity to the startle-gating disruptive effects of apomorphine in rats.

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Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of California-San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0804, USA.



Prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle (PPI) is deficient in several heritable brain disorders. In rats, the dopamine agonist, apomorphine (APO), reduces PPI and expression of the early gene, c-fos, within the nucleus accumbens (NAC) core. Both of these effects are greater in Sprague-Dawley (SD) vs. Long Evans (LE) rats, and this PPI strain pattern is inherited. Here, we examined phosphorylation of cyclic-AMP response element-binding protein (CREB), a putative intermediary step between dopamine receptor stimulation and Fos expression, in SD and LE rats.


The effects of APO (vehicle vs. 0.5 mg/kg) on PPI were tested in SD and LE rats in a within-subject design. Seven days later, under conditions mimicking PPI testing, half of the rats from each strain received either vehicle or APO (0.5 mg/kg) 20 min before euthanasia. NAC CREB and phospho-CREB levels were quantified from tissue sections reacted immunohistochemically.


APO reduced PPI in both strains, with a significantly greater effect in SD vs. LE rats. APO also significantly reduced NAC core phospho-CREB levels in both strains, with a significantly greater effect in SD vs. LE rats. Among SD rats receiving APO, the reduction in NAC core CREB phosphorylation correlated significantly with the APO-induced reduction in PPI (R = 0.49).


A dose of APO that disrupts PPI of acoustic startle causes a profound suppression of CREB phosphorylation in the NAC; both dopamine-sensitive behavioral and molecular phenotypes are more robust in SD vs. LE rats, and within SD rats, they are significantly correlated.

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