Pregnenolone sulfate induces NMDA receptor dependent release of dopamine from synaptic terminals in the striatum

J Neurochem. 2008 Oct;107(2):510-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05627.x. Epub 2008 Aug 14.


Neuromodulators that alter the balance between lower-frequency glutamate-mediated excitatory and higher-frequency GABA-mediated inhibitory synaptic transmission are likely to participate in core mechanisms for CNS function and may contribute to the pathophysiology of neurological disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. Pregnenolone sulfate (PS) modulates both ionotropic glutamate and GABA(A) receptor mediated synaptic transmission. The enzymes necessary for PS synthesis and degradation are found in brain tissue of several species including human and rat, and up to 5 nM PS has been detected in extracts of postmortem human brain. Here, we ask whether PS could modulate transmitter release from nerve terminals located in the striatum. Superfusion of a preparation of striatal nerve terminals comprised of mixed synaptosomes and synaptoneurosomes with brief-duration (2 min) pulses of 25 nM PS demonstrates that PS increases the release of newly accumulated [3H]dopamine ([3H]DA), but not [14C]glutamate or [3H]GABA, whereas pregnenolone is without effect. PS does not affect dopamine transporter (DAT) mediated uptake of [3H]DA, demonstrating that it specifically affects the transmitter release mechanism. The PS-induced [3H]DA release occurs via an NMDA receptor (NMDAR) dependent mechanism as it is blocked by D-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid. PS modulates DA release with very high potency, significantly increasing [3H]DA release at PS concentrations as low as 25 pM. This first report of a selective direct enhancement of synaptosomal dopamine release by PS at picomolar concentrations via an NMDAR dependent mechanism raises the possibility that dopaminergic axon terminals may be a site of action for this neurosteroid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • 6-Cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / ultrastructure*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / pharmacology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Glutamic Acid / pharmacology
  • Glycine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning / methods
  • N-Methylaspartate / pharmacology
  • Potassium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Pregnenolone / pharmacology*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / drug effects*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*
  • Synaptosomes / drug effects
  • Synaptosomes / metabolism
  • Tritium / metabolism
  • Valine / analogs & derivatives
  • Valine / pharmacology


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • pregnenolone sulfate
  • Tritium
  • Glutamic Acid
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • Potassium Chloride
  • 6-Cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione
  • Pregnenolone
  • 2-amino-5-phosphopentanoic acid
  • Valine
  • Glycine
  • Dopamine