Netrin receptor deficient mice exhibit functional reorganization of dopaminergic systems and do not sensitize to amphetamine

Mol Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;10(6):606-12. doi: 10.1038/


Netrins are guidance cues that play a fundamental role in organizing the developing brain. The netrin receptor, DCC (deleted in colorectal cancer), is highly expressed by dopaminergic (DA) neurons. DCC may therefore participate in the organization of DA circuitry during development and also influence DA function in the adult. Here we show that adult dcc heterozygous mice exhibit a blunted behavioral response to the indirect DA agonist amphetamine and do not develop sensitization to its effects when treated repeatedly. These behavioral alterations are associated with profound changes in DA function. In the medial prefrontal cortex, dcc heterozygotes exhibit increased tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) protein levels and dramatic increases in basal concentrations of DA and DA metabolites. In contrast, in the nucleus accumbens, dcc heterozygotes show no changes in either TH or DA levels, but exhibit decreased concentrations of DA metabolites, suggesting reduced DA activity. In addition, dcc heterozygous mice exhibit a small, but significant reduction in total number of TH-positive neurons in midbrain DA cell body regions. These results demonstrate for the first time that alterations in dcc expression lead to selective changes in DA function and, in turn, to differences in DA-related behaviors in adulthood. These findings raise the possibility that changes in dcc function early in life are implicated in the development of DA dysregulation observed in certain psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, or following chronic use of drugs of abuse.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Dextroamphetamine / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology*
  • Heterozygote
  • Limbic System / drug effects
  • Limbic System / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Netrin Receptors
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / deficiency
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / drug effects
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Netrin Receptors
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dextroamphetamine
  • Dopamine