Amphetamine-induced c-fos mRNA expression in the caudate-putamen and subthalamic nucleus: interactions between dose, environment, and neuronal phenotype

J Neurochem. 2003 Apr;85(1):105-14. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.2003.01646.x.


When administered in a novel environment relatively low doses of amphetamine induce c-fos mRNA in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) and in preproenkephalin mRNA-containing (ENK+) neurons in the caudate-putamen (CPu). When administered at home, however, low doses of amphetamine do not produce these effects. Environmental novelty also facilitates the behavioral effects of acute and repeated amphetamine, but this is dose-dependent. The purpose of the present experiment therefore was to determine if the effect of context on amphetamine-induced c-fos expression is also dose-dependent. It was found that: (i) No dose of amphetamine tested (1-10 mg/kg) induced c-fos in many ENK+ cells when given at home. (ii) When given in a novel environment low to moderate doses of amphetamine (1-5 mg/kg) induced c-fos in substantial numbers of ENK+ cells, but the highest dose examined (10 mg/kg) did not. (iii) Environmental novelty enhanced the ability of low to moderate doses of amphetamine to induce c-fos in the STN, but the highest dose of amphetamine induced robust c-fos mRNA expression in the STN regardless of context. The results do not support the idea that engaging ENK+ cells, at least as indicated by c-fos mRNA expression, is critical to produce robust behavioral sensitization, but do suggest a possible role for the STN. Furthermore, the results highlight the importance of drug-environment interactions on the neurobiological effects of drugs, and have implications for thinking about the circuits by which context modulates the acute and long-lasting consequences of amphetamine treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamine / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Caudate Nucleus / drug effects
  • Caudate Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Male
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / genetics*
  • Putamen / drug effects
  • Putamen / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Amphetamine