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J Neurochem. 2016 Sep;138(6):821-9. doi: 10.1111/jnc.13732. Epub 2016 Aug 15.

Dopamine D3 autoreceptor inhibition enhances cocaine potency at the dopamine transporter.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.


Cocaine is a commonly abused central nervous system stimulant that enhances dopamine (DA) neurotransmission through its ability to block dopamine transporters (DATs). Recent evidence suggests there may be an interaction between DATs and D2/D3 autoreceptors that modulates cocaine's effects. The purpose of this study was to explore how D2/D3 autoreceptors modulate the ability of cocaine to inhibit DA uptake through DATs on pre-synaptic DA terminals. Using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry in brain slices containing the nucleus accumbens core from male and female C57BL/6J mice, we first sought to examine the effects of global autoreceptor blockade using the non-selective D2/D3 autoreceptor antagonist, raclopride. We found that the ability of cocaine to inhibit DA uptake was increased by raclopride and that this effect was consistent across sexes. Furthermore, using D2 (L-741,626) or D3 (SB-277011-A) autoreceptor selective antagonists, we discovered that blockade of D3, but not D2, autoreceptors was responsible for the increased cocaine potency. Alterations in cocaine potency were attributable to alterations in uptake inhibition, rather than cocaine effects on vesicular DA release, suggesting that these results may be a product of a functional D3/DAT interaction apart from the canonical inhibitory actions of D3 autoreceptors on DA release. In addition, application of D2 (sumanirole) and D3 (PD 128907) autoreceptor-specific agonists had inverse effects, whereby D2 autoreceptor activation decreased cocaine potency and D3 autoreceptor activation had no effect. Together, these data show that DA autoreceptors dynamically regulate cocaine potency at the DAT, which is important for understanding cocaine's rewarding and addictive properties. We propose a model whereby presynaptic dopamine autoreceptors dynamically modulate cocaine potency through two separate mechanisms. We demonstrate that D2 agonists decrease cocaine potency, whereas D3 antagonists increase cocaine potency, likely through an allosteric mechanism outside of their canonical actions on dopamine release. These findings give important and novel insight into the contribution of D2/D3 autoreceptors to dopamine transporter function.


D2 autoreceptor; addiction; mouse; nucleus accumbens; sex differences; voltammetry

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