Age- And sex-specific plasticity in dopamine transporter function revealed by food restriction and exercise in a rat activity-based anorexia paradigm

T. Lee Gilman, W. Anthony Owens, Christina M. George, Lauren Metzel, Melissa Vitela, Livia Ferreira, Melodi A. Bowman, Georgianna G. Gould, Glenn M. Toney, Lynette C. Daws

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Eating disorders such as anorexia typically emerge during adolescence, are characterized by engagement in compulsive and detrimental behaviors, and are often comorbid with neuropsychiatric disorders and drug abuse. No effective treatments exist. Moreover, anorexia lacks adolescent animal models, contributing to a poor understanding of underlying age-specific neurophysiological disruptions. To evaluate the contribution of dopaminergic signaling to the emergence of anorexia-related behaviors during the vulnerable adolescent period, we applied an established adult activity-based anorexia (ABA) paradigm (food restriction plus unlimited exercise access for 4 to 5 days) to adult and adolescent rats of both sexes. At the end of the paradigm, measures of plasma volume, blood hormone levels, dopamine transporter (DAT) expression and function, acute cocaine-induced locomotion, and brain water weight were taken. Adolescents were dramatically more affected by the ABA paradigm than adults in all measures. In vivo chronoamperometry and cocaine locomotor responses revealed sex-specific changes in adolescent DAT function after ABA that were independent of DAT expression differences. Hematocrit, insulin, ghrelin, and corticosterone levels did not resemble shifts typically observed in patients with anorexia, though decreases in leptin levels aligned with human reports. These findings are the first to suggest that food restriction in conjunction with excessive exercise sex-dependently and age-specifically modulate DAT functional plasticity during adolescence. The adolescent vulnerability to this relatively short manipulation, combined with blood measures, evidence need for an optimized age-appropriate ABA paradigm with greater face and predictive validity for the study of the pathophysiology and treatment of anorexia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-277
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Volume371
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology

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