Mice expressing markedly reduced striatal dopamine transporters exhibit increased locomotor activity, dopamine uptake turnover rate, and cocaine responsiveness

Synapse. 2013 Oct;67(10):668-77. doi: 10.1002/syn.21671. Epub 2013 May 30.


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.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Cocaine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cocaine / pharmacology
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Protein Binding
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Slc6a3 protein, mouse
  • (1R-(exo,exo))-3-(4-fluorophenyl)-8-methyl-8- azabicyclo(3.2.1)octane-2-carboxylic acid, methyl ester
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine