Neurotensin receptor 1 deletion decreases methamphetamine self-administration and the associated reduction in dopamine cell firing

Addict Biol. 2021 Jan;26(1):e12854. doi: 10.1111/adb.12854. Epub 2019 Nov 19.


We previously reported that a non-selective pharmacological blockade of neurotensin receptors in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) decreases methamphetamine (METH) self-administration in mice. Here, we explored the consequences of genetic deletion of neurotensin receptor 1 (NtsR1) on METH self-administration and VTA dopamine neuron firing activity. We implanted mice with an indwelling jugular catheter and trained them to nose-poke for intravenous infusions of METH. Mice with NtsR1 deletion (KO) acquired self-administration similar to wildtype (WT) and heterozygous (HET) littermates. However, in NtsR1 KO and HET mice, METH intake and motivated METH seeking decreased when the response requirement was increased to a fixed ratio 3 and when mice were tested on a progressive ratio protocol. After completion of METH self-administration, single cell in vivo extracellular recordings of dopamine firing activity in the VTA were obtained in anesthetized mice. Non-bursting dopamine neurons from KO mice fired at slower rates than those from WT mice, supporting an excitatory role for NtsR1 on VTA dopamine neuronal activity. In WT mice, a history of METH self-administration decreased dopamine cell firing frequency compared with cells from drug-naïve controls. NtsR1 KO and HET mice did not exhibit this decline in dopamine cell firing activity after METH experience. We also observed an increase in population activity following METH self-administration that was strongest in the WT group. Our results suggest a role for NtsR1 in METH-seeking behavior and indicate that ablation of NtsR1 prevents the detrimental effects of prolonged METH self-administration on VTA dopamine cell firing frequency.

Keywords: Neurotensin; dopamine cell firing; methamphetamine self-administration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Dopamine
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior*
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / administration & dosage*
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Neurotensin / genetics*
  • Self Administration
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / metabolism


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Receptors, Neurotensin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Dopamine