Selective Role of RGS9-2 in Regulating Retrograde Synaptic Signaling of Indirect Pathway Medium Spiny Neurons in Dorsal Striatum

J Neurosci. 2018 Aug 8;38(32):7120-7131. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0493-18.2018. Epub 2018 Jul 13.


In the striatum, medium spiny neurons (MSNs) are heavily involved in controlling movement and reward. MSNs form two distinct populations expressing either dopamine receptor 1 (D1-MSN) or dopamine receptor 2 (D2-MSN), which differ in their projection targets and neurochemical composition. The activity of both types of MSNs is shaped by multiple neuromodulatory inputs processed by GPCRs that fundamentally impact their synaptic properties biasing behavioral outcomes. How these GPCR signaling cascades are regulated and what downstream targets they recruit in D1-MSN and D2-MSN populations are incompletely understood. In this study, we examined the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the action of RGS9-2, a key GPCR regulator in MSNs implicated in both movement control and actions of addictive drugs. Imaging cultured striatal neurons, we found that ablation of RGS9-2 significantly reduced calcium influx through NMDARs. Electrophysiological recordings in slices confirmed inhibition of NMDAR function in MSNs, resulting in enhanced AMPAR/NMDAR ratio. Accordingly, male mice lacking RGS9-2 displayed behavioral hypersensitivity to NMDAR blockade by MK-801 or ketamine. Recordings from genetically identified populations of striatal neurons revealed that these changes were selective to D2-MSNs. Surprisingly, we found that these postsynaptic effects resulted in remodeling of presynaptic inputs to D2-MSNs increasing the frequency of mEPSC and inhibiting paired-pulse ratio. Pharmacological dissection revealed that these adaptations were mediated by the NMDAR-dependent inhibition of retrograde endocannabinoid signaling from D2-MSNs to CB1 receptor on presynaptic terminals. Together, these data demonstrate a novel mechanism for pathway selective regulation of synaptic plasticity in MSNs controlled by GPCR signaling.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT This study identifies a role for a major G-protein regulator in controlling synaptic properties of striatal neurons in a pathway selective fashion.

Keywords: GPCR; NMDAR; RGS; endocannabinoids; medium spiny neurons; striatum.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Corpus Striatum / cytology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / chemistry
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / classification
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / drug effects
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Endocannabinoids / physiology
  • Exploratory Behavior
  • Female
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • RGS Proteins / deficiency
  • RGS Proteins / genetics
  • RGS Proteins / physiology*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / analysis
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology
  • Rotarod Performance Test
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • DRD2 protein, mouse
  • Endocannabinoids
  • RGS Proteins
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • regulator of g-protein signaling 9
  • Glutamic Acid