Cell-Type-Specific Adaptions in Striatal Medium-Sized Spiny Neurons and Their Roles in Behavioral Responses to Drugs of Abuse

Front Synaptic Neurosci. 2021 Dec 14;13:799274. doi: 10.3389/fnsyn.2021.799274. eCollection 2021.

Abstract

Drug addiction is defined as a compulsive pattern of drug-seeking- and taking- behavior, with recurrent episodes of abstinence and relapse, and a loss of control despite negative consequences. Addictive drugs promote reinforcement by increasing dopamine in the mesocorticolimbic system, which alters excitatory glutamate transmission within the reward circuitry, thereby hijacking reward processing. Within the reward circuitry, the striatum is a key target structure of drugs of abuse since it is at the crossroad of converging glutamate inputs from limbic, thalamic and cortical regions, encoding components of drug-associated stimuli and environment, and dopamine that mediates reward prediction error and incentive values. These signals are integrated by medium-sized spiny neurons (MSN), which receive glutamate and dopamine axons converging onto their dendritic spines. MSN primarily form two mostly distinct populations based on the expression of either DA-D1 (D1R) or DA-D2 (D2R) receptors. While a classical view is that the two MSN populations act in parallel, playing antagonistic functional roles, the picture seems much more complex. Herein, we review recent studies, based on the use of cell-type-specific manipulations, demonstrating that dopamine differentially modulates dendritic spine density and synapse formation, as well as glutamate transmission, at specific inputs projecting onto D1R-MSN and D2R-MSN to shape persistent pathological behavioral in response to drugs of abuse. We also discuss the identification of distinct molecular events underlying the detrimental interplay between dopamine and glutamate signaling in D1R-MSN and D2R-MSN and highlight the relevance of such cell-type-specific molecular studies for the development of innovative strategies with potential therapeutic value for addiction. Because drug addiction is highly prevalent in patients with other psychiatric disorders when compared to the general population, we last discuss the hypothesis that shared cellular and molecular adaptations within common circuits could explain the co-occurrence of addiction and depression. We will therefore conclude this review by examining how the nucleus accumbens (NAc) could constitute a key interface between addiction and depression.

Keywords: addiction; psychiatric disorders; receptor tracking; signaling; striatum; synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

  • Review