The mesocorticolimbic system is comprised of dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and their projection targets in the ventral striatum, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus, among others. Regulation of dopamine transmission within this system is achieved in part through a negative feedback mechanism via dopamine D2 autoreceptors located on somatodendrites and terminals of VTA dopaminergic neurons. Dysregulation of this mechanism has been implicated in addiction and other psychiatric disorders, although the biological bases for these associations are unclear. In order to elucidate the functional consequences of VTA D2 receptor dysregulation, this study investigated alterations in local cerebral glucose utilization throughout the brain following Drd2 knockdown in the VTA. Male Sprague-Dawley rats received bilateral injections of lentivirus encoding shRNAs against the rat dopamine D2 receptor, scrambled shRNA or phosphate buffered saline. The autoradiographic 2-[14C]deoxyglucose metabolic mapping procedure was conducted 22 days post-infection. Brains were sectioned for autoradiography and glucose utilization was measured across distinct regions throughout the brain. Local cerebral glucose utilization was found to be elevated in the Drd2 knockdown group as compared to control groups. These greater levels of metabolic activity following Drd2 knockdown in the VTA were observed not only in the mesocorticolimbic system and associated dopamine pathways, but also in a global pattern that included many areas with far less concentrated VTA dopamine inputs. This suggests that even a partial Drd2 deletion in the VTA can have widespread consequences and impact information flow in diverse networks that process sensory, cognitive, motor and emotional information.
Keywords: D2 receptor knockdown; Dopamine D2 autoreceptors; Local cerebral glucose utilization; Mesocorticolimbic system; Ventral tegmental area.
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