Rationale: Netrin-1 guidance cues contribute to amphetamine-induced plasticity of the adult mesocorticolimbic dopamine system in rodents. The netrin-1 receptor, deleted in colorectal cancer (DCC), is upregulated by repeated amphetamine treatment selectively in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of adult rats and wild-type mice. Furthermore, adult dcc heterozygous mice fail to show amphetamine-induced increases in VTA DCC expression and do not develop sensitization to this drug.
Objectives: The effects of netrin-1 receptor signaling on mesocorticolimbic dopamine system function change across development. However, the effects of AMPH on DCC receptor regulation and behavioral sensitization before puberty have not been determined. Here we examined whether (1) repeated amphetamine treatment would also alter DCC expression in juvenile rats and wild-type mice, and (2) dcc heterozygotes treated with amphetamine during the juvenile period (PND 22-32) would develop behavioral sensitization to this drug.
Results: Repeated amphetamine downregulates DCC expression selectively in the VTA of juvenile rodents. Moreover, the behavioral phenotype of adult dcc heterozygous mice is not present before puberty and is abolished by amphetamine treatment during the juvenile period. Remarkably, adult dcc heterozygotes pretreated with amphetamine as juveniles no longer exhibit reduced DCC expression in the VTA compared to wild-type controls.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that netrin-1 receptor signaling may be a key factor in determining individual differences in vulnerability to the behaviorally sensitizing effects of amphetamine at different ages. Moreover, they suggest that the juvenile period marks a window of vulnerability during which exposure to stimulant drugs can reverse the behavioral phenotype of adult dcc heterozygous mice.