Rescue of dopamine transporter function in hypoinsulinemic rats by a D 2 receptor-ERK-dependent mechanism

W. Anthony Owens, Jason M. Williams, Christine Saunders, Malcolm J. Avison, Aurelio Galli, Lynette C. Daws

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The dopamine (DA) transporter (DAT) is a major target for abused drugs and a key regulator of extracellular DA. A rapidly growing literature implicates insulin as an important regulator of DAT function. We showed previously that amphetamine (AMPH)-evoked DA release is markedly impaired in rats depleted of insulin with the diabetogenic agent streptozotocin (STZ). Similarly, functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments revealed that the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal following acute AMPH administration in STZ-treated rats is reduced. Here, we report that these deficits are restored by repeated, systemic administration of AMPH (1.78 mg/kg, every other day for 8 d). AMPH stimulates DA D 2 receptors indirectly by increasing extracellular DA. Supporting a role for D 2 receptors in mediating this "rescue," the effect was completely blocked by pre-treatment of STZ-treated rats with the D2 receptor antagonist raclopride before systemic AMPH. D 2 receptors regulate DAT cell surface expression through ERK1/2 signaling. In ex vivo striatal preparations, repeated AMPH injections increased immunoreactivity of phosphorylated ERK1/2 (p-ERK1/2) in STZ-treated but not control rats. These data suggest that repeated exposure to AMPH can rescue, by activating D 2 receptors and p-ERK signaling, deficits in DATfunction that result from hypoinsulinemia. Our data confirm the idea that disorders influencing insulin levels and/or signaling, such as diabetes and anorexia, can degrade DAT function and that insulin-independent pathways are present that may be exploited as potential therapeutic targets to restore normal DAT function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2637-2647
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 22 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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