Variations in the expression levels of the dopamine transporter (DAT) can influence responsiveness to psychostimulant drugs like cocaine. To better understand this relationship, we studied a new DAT-low expresser (DAT-LE) mouse model and performed behavioral and biochemical studies with it. Immunoblotting and [(3) H]WIN 35,428 binding analyses revealed that these mice express ∼35% of wildtype (WT) mouse striatal DAT levels. Compared to WT mice, DAT-LE mice were hyperactive in a novel open-field environment. Despite their higher basal locomotor activity, cocaine (10 or 20 mg/kg, i.p.) induced greater locomotor activation in DAT-LE mice than in WT mice. The maximal velocity (Vmax ) of DAT-mediated [(3) H]DA uptake into striatal synaptosomes was reduced by 46% in DAT-LE mice, as compared to WT. Overall, considering the reduced number of DAT binding sites (Bmax ) along with the reduced Vmax in DAT-LE mice, a 2-fold increase in DA uptake turnover rate (Vmax /Bmax ) was found, relative to WT mice. This suggests that neuroadaptive changes have occurred in the DAT-LE mice that would help to compensate for their low DAT numbers. Interestingly, these changes do not include a reduction in tyrosine hydroxylase levels, as was previously reported in DAT knockout homozygous and heterozygous animals. Further, these changes are not sufficient to prevent elevated novelty- and cocaine-induced locomotor activity. Hence, these mice represent a unique model for studying changes of in vivo DAT function and regulation that result from markedly reduced levels of DAT expression.
Keywords: SLC6; [3H]WIN 35,428; low-expresser; mouse model; neurotransmitter transporter; psychostimulant.
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