Upregulation of Dopamine D2 Receptors in the Nucleus Accumbens Indirect Pathway Increases Locomotion but Does Not Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Jun;40(7):1609-18. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.11. Epub 2015 Jan 12.


Brain imaging studies performed in humans have associated low striatal dopamine release and D2R binding with alcohol dependence. Conversely, high striatal D2R binding has been observed in unaffected members of alcoholic families suggesting that high D2R function may protect against alcohol dependence. A possible protective role of increased D2R levels in the striatum is further supported by preclinical studies in non-human primates and rodents. Here, we determined whether there is a causal relationship between D2R levels and alcohol intake. To this end, we upregulated D2R expression levels in the nucleus accumbens of the adult mouse, but selectively restricted the upregulation to the indirect striatal output pathway, which endogenously expresses D2Rs. After overexpression was established, mice were tested in two models of free-choice alcohol drinking: the continuous and intermittent access two-bottle choice models. As anticipated, we found that D2R upregulation leads to hyperactivity in the open field. Contrary to our expectation, D2R upregulation did not reduce alcohol intake during continuous or intermittent access or when alcohol drinking was tested in the context of aversive outcomes. These data argue against a protective role of accumbal indirect pathway D2Rs in alcohol consumption but emphasize their importance in promoting locomotor activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics*
  • Alcohols / administration & dosage*
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Locomotion / genetics*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding / drug effects
  • Protein Binding / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / physiology*


  • Alcohols
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2