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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Alcohol elicits functional and structural plasticity selectively in dopamine D1 receptor-expressing neurons of the dorsomedial striatum

  • Author(s): Wang, J
  • Cheng, Y
  • Wang, X
  • Hellard, ER
  • Ma, T
  • Gil, H
  • Hamida, SB
  • Ron, D
  • et al.

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© 2015 the authors. Addiction is thought to be a maladaptive form of learning andmemorycaused by drug-evoked aberrant synaptic plasticity.Wepreviously showed that alcohol facilitates synaptic plasticity in the dorsomedial striatum (DMS), a brain region that drives goal-directed behaviors. The majority of DMS cells are medium spiny neurons (MSNs) that express dopamine D1 receptors (D1Rs) or D2 receptors (D2Rs), which drive “Go” or “No-Go” behaviors, respectively. Here, we report that alcohol induces cell type-specific synaptic and structural plasticity in the DMS. Using mice that express a fluorescence marker to visualize D1R or D2R MSNs, we show that repeated cycles of systemic administration of alcohol or alcohol consumption induces a long-lasting increase in AMPAR activity specifically in DMS D1R but not in D2R MSNs. Importantly, we report that alcohol consumption increases the complexity of dendritic branching and the density of mature mushroom-shaped spines selectively in DMS D1R MSNs. Finally, we found that blockade of D1R but not D2R activity in the DMS attenuates alcohol consumption. Together, these data suggest that alcohol intake produces profound functional and structural plasticity events in a subpopulation of neurons in the DMS that control reinforcement-related learning.

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