Jaehan Kwon a, Hyun Jin Kim b, Hyoung-Ro Lee a, Won-Kyung Ho a, Joung-Hun Kim b,c, Suk-Ho Lee a,d
aCell Physiology Lab, Department of Physiology, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea
bDepartment of Life Sciences, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Pohang, Republic of Korea
cInstitute of Convergence Science, Yonsei University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
dDepartment of Brain and Cognitive Science, Seoul National University College of Natural Sciences, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Address correspondence to Joung-Hun Kim, Ph.D, Suk-Ho Lee, M.D., Ph.D
Background: Unbalanced activity of medium spiny neurons (MSNs) of the direct and indirect pathways mediates reward-related behaviors induced by addictive drugs. Prelimbic (PL) input to MSNs in the nucleus accumbens core (NAcC) plays a key role in cocaine-induced early locomotor sensitization (LS). However, the adaptive plastic changes at PL-to-NAcC synapses underlying early LS remain unclear.
Methods: Using transgenic mice and retrograde tracing, we identified NAcC-projecting pyramidal neurons (PNs) in the PL cortex based on the expression of dopamine receptor types (D1R or D2R). To examine cocaine-induced alterations in PL-to-NAcC synapses, we measured excitatory postsynaptic current amplitudes evoked by optostimulation of PL afferents to MSNs. Riluzole was chosen to test the effects of PL excitability on cocaine-induced changes of PL-to-NAcC synapses.
Results: NAcC-projecting PNs were segregated into D1R- and D2R-expressing PNs (D1- and D2-PNs, respectively), and their excitability was opposingly regulated by respective dopamine agonists. Both D1- and D2-PNs exhibited balanced innervation of direct MSNs and indirect MSNs in naïve animals. Repeated cocaine injections resulted in biased synaptic strength toward direct MSNs through presynaptic mechanisms in both D1- and D2-PNs, although D2R activation reduced the D2-PN excitability. Under group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptors coactivation, however, D2R activation enhanced the D2-PN excitability. The cocaine-induced rewiring accompanied LS, and both rewiring and LS were precluded by PL infusion of riluzole, which reduced the intrinsic excitability of PL neurons.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that cocaine-induced rewiring of PL-to-NAcC synapses correlates well with early behavioral sensitization and that rewiring and LS can be prevented by riluzole-induced reduction of excitability of PL neurons.