Chronic peri-adolescent stress in humans increases risk to develop a substance use disorder during adulthood. Rats reared in social isolation during peri-adolescence (aSI; 1 rat/cage) period show greater ethanol and cocaine intake compared to group housed (aGH; 4 rats/cage) rats. In addition, aSI rats have a heightened dopamine response in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) to rewarding and aversive stimuli. Furthermore, single pulse electrical stimulation in slices containing NAc core elicits greater dopamine release in aSI rats. Here, we further investigated dopamine release kinetics and machinery following aSI. Dopamine release, across a wide range of stimulation intensities and frequencies, was significantly greater in aSI rats. Interestingly, subthreshold intensity stimulations also resulted in measurable dopamine release in accumbal slices from aSI but not aGH rats. Extracellular [Ca2+] manipulations revealed augmented calcium sensitivity of dopamine release in aSI rats. The readily releasable pools of dopamine, examined by bath application of Ro-04-1284/000, a vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) inhibitor, were depleted faster in aGH rats. Western blot analysis of release machinery proteins (VMAT2, Synaptogyrin-3, Syntaxin-1, and Munc13-3) showed no difference between the two groups. Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) protein expression levels, however, were elevated in aSI rats. The greater dopamine release could potentially be explained by higher levels of TH, the rate-limiting step for dopamine synthesis. This augmented responsivity of the dopamine system and heightened dopamine availability post-aSI may lead to an increased risk of addiction vulnerability.
Keywords: D2/D3 autoreceptors; dopamine availability; dopamine kinetics; nucleus accumbens core; peri-adolescent stress; social isolation; tyrosine hydroxylase.