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J Neurosci. 2012 Feb 22;32(8):2637-47. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3759-11.2012.

Rescue of dopamine transporter function in hypoinsulinemic rats by a D2 receptor-ERK-dependent mechanism.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX 78229, USA.


The dopamine (DA) transporter (DAT) is a major target for abused drugs and a key regulator of extracellular DA. A rapidly growing literature implicates insulin as an important regulator of DAT function. We showed previously that amphetamine (AMPH)-evoked DA release is markedly impaired in rats depleted of insulin with the diabetogenic agent streptozotocin (STZ). Similarly, functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments revealed that the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal following acute AMPH administration in STZ-treated rats is reduced. Here, we report that these deficits are restored by repeated, systemic administration of AMPH (1.78 mg/kg, every other day for 8 d). AMPH stimulates DA D(2) receptors indirectly by increasing extracellular DA. Supporting a role for D(2) receptors in mediating this "rescue," the effect was completely blocked by pre-treatment of STZ-treated rats with the D(2) receptor antagonist raclopride before systemic AMPH. D(2) receptors regulate DAT cell surface expression through ERK1/2 signaling. In ex vivo striatal preparations, repeated AMPH injections increased immunoreactivity of phosphorylated ERK1/2 (p-ERK1/2) in STZ-treated but not control rats. These data suggest that repeated exposure to AMPH can rescue, by activating D(2) receptors and p-ERK signaling, deficits in DAT function that result from hypoinsulinemia. Our data confirm the idea that disorders influencing insulin levels and/or signaling, such as diabetes and anorexia, can degrade DAT function and that insulin-independent pathways are present that may be exploited as potential therapeutic targets to restore normal DAT function.

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