Making Dopamine Connections in Adolescence

Trends Neurosci. 2017 Dec;40(12):709-719. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2017.09.004. Epub 2017 Oct 9.


A dramatic maturational process ongoing in adolescence is prefrontal cortex development, including its dopamine innervation. Dopamine axons grow from the striatum to the prefrontal cortex, the only known case of long-distance axon growth during adolescence. This is coordinated by the Netrin-1 guidance cue receptor DCC (deleted in colorectal cancer), which in turn controls the intrinsic development of the prefrontal cortex itself. Stimulant drugs in adolescence alter DCC in dopamine neurons and, in turn prefrontal cortex maturation, impacting cognitive abilities. Variations in DCC expression are linked to psychiatric conditions of prefrontal cortex dysfunction, and microRNA regulation of DCC may be key to determining adolescent vulnerability or resilience. Since early interventions are proving to effectively ameliorate disease outcome, the Netrin-1 system is a promising therapeutic target.

Keywords: DCC; Netrin; guidance cues; microRNA; prefrontal cortex; stimulant drugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Sexual Maturation


  • Dopamine