Ethanol and psychostimulant use disorders exhibit comorbidity in humans and cross-sensitization in animal models, but the neurobiological underpinnings of this are not well understood. Ethanol acutely increases dopamine neuron excitability, and psychostimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine increase extracellular dopamine through inhibition of uptake through the dopamine transporter (DAT) and/or vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2). Psychostimulants also depress dopamine neuron activity by enhancing dendritic dopamine neurotransmission. Here, we show that mice with a previous history of ethanol drinking are more sensitive to the locomotor-stimulating effects of a high dose (5 mg/kg), but not lower doses (1 and 3 mg/kg) of methamphetamine or any tested dose of cocaine (3, 10, and 18 mg/kg), compared with water-drinking controls. We next investigated the impact of a history of ethanol drinking, in a separate group of mice, on methamphetamine- or cocaine-induced enhancement of dendritic dopamine transmission using whole-cell voltage clamp electrophysiology in mouse brain slices. Methamphetamine, applied at a concentration (10 μM) that affects both DAT and VMAT2, enhanced D2 receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents (D2-IPSCs) in both groups, but this effect was blunted in mice with a history of ethanol drinking. As methamphetamine action at VMAT2 disrupts dopamine neurotransmission, these results may suggest enhanced action of methamphetamine at VMAT2. Furthermore, there were no differences in low-dose methamphetamine or cocaine-induced enhancement of D2-IPSCs, suggesting intact DAT function. Disruption of methamphetamine-induced enhancement of dendritic dopamine transmission would result in decreased inhibition of dopamine neurons, ultimately increasing downstream release and the behavioral effects of methamphetamine.
Keywords: VMAT2; cocaine; dendrodendritic; dopamine; ethanol; methamphetamine.
© 2019 Society for the Study of Addiction.