Background: The repeated administration of psychostimulant drugs produces a persistent and long-lasting increase ("sensitization") in their psychomotor effects, which is thought to be due to changes in the neural circuitry that mediate these behaviors. One index of neuronal activation used to identify brain regions altered by repeated exposure to drugs involves their ability to induce immediate early genes, such as c-fos. Numerous reports have demonstrated that past drug experience alters the ability of drugs to induce c-fos in the striatum, but very few have examined Fos protein expression in the two major compartments in the striatum--the so-called patch/striosome and matrix.
Methodology/principal findings: In the present study, we used immunohistochemistry to investigate the effects of pretreatment with methamphetamine on the ability of a subsequent methamphetamine challenge to induce Fos protein expression in the patch and matrix compartments of the dorsolateral and dorsomedial caudate-putamen and in the ventral striatum (nucleus accumbens). Animals pretreated with methamphetamine developed robust psychomotor sensitization. A methamphetamine challenge increased the number of Fos-positive cells in all areas of the dorsal and ventral striatum. However, methamphetamine challenge induced Fos expression in more cells in the patch than in the matrix compartment in the dorsolateral and dorsomedial caudate-putamen. Furthermore, past experience with methamphetamine increased the number of methamphetamine-induced Fos positive cells in the patch compartment of the dorsal caudate putamen, but not in the matrix or in the core or shell of the nucleus accumbens.
Conclusions/significance: These data suggest that drug-induced alterations in the patch compartment of the dorsal caudate-putamen may preferentially contribute to some of the enduring changes in brain activity and behavior produced by repeated treatment with methamphetamine.