Balanced NMDA receptor activity in dopamine D1 receptor (D1R)- and D2R-expressing medium spiny neurons is required for amphetamine sensitization

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Mar 8;108(10):4206-11. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1101424108. Epub 2011 Feb 22.


Signaling through N-methyl-D-aspartate-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs) is essential for the development of behavioral sensitization to psychostimulants such as amphetamine (AMPH). However, the cell type and brain region in which NMDAR signaling is required for AMPH sensitization remain unresolved. Here we use selective inactivation of Grin1, the gene encoding the essential NR1 subunit of NMDARs, in dopamine neurons or their medium spiny neuron (MSN) targets, to address this issue. We show that NMDAR signaling in dopamine neurons is not required for behavioral sensitization to AMPH. Conversely, removing NMDARs from MSNs that express the dopamine D1 receptor (D1R) significantly attenuated AMPH sensitization, and conditional, virus-mediated restoration of NR1 in D1R neurons in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) of these animals rescued sensitization. Interestingly, sensitization could also be restored by virus-mediated inactivation of NR1 in all remaining neurons in the NAc of animals lacking NMDARs on D1R neurons, or by removing NMDARs from all MSNs. Taken together, these data indicate that unbalanced loss of NMDAR signaling in D1R MSNs alone prevents AMPH sensitization, whereas a balanced loss of NMDARs from both D1R and dopamine D2 receptor-expressing (D2R) MSNs is permissive for sensitization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamines / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Amphetamines
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate