The plasma membrane transporters for the monoamine neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine modulate the dynamics of these monoamine neurotransmitters. Thus, activity of these transporters has significant consequences for monoamine activity throughout the brain and for a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Gene knockout (KO) mice that reduce or eliminate expression of each of these monoamine transporters have provided a wealth of new information about the function of these proteins at molecular, physiological and behavioral levels. In the present work we use the unique properties of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to probe the effects of altered dopaminergic dynamics on meso-scale neuronal circuitry and overall brain morphology, since changes at these levels of organization might help to account for some of the extensive pharmacological and behavioral differences observed in dopamine transporter (DAT) KO mice. Despite the smaller size of these animals, voxel-wise statistical comparison of high resolution structural MR images indicated little morphological change as a consequence of DAT KO. Likewise, proton magnetic resonance spectra recorded in the striatum indicated no significant changes in detectable metabolite concentrations between DAT KO and wild-type (WT) mice. In contrast, alterations in the circuitry from the prefrontal cortex to the mesocortical limbic system, an important brain component intimately tied to function of mesolimbic/mesocortical dopamine reward pathways, were revealed by manganese-enhanced MRI (MEMRI). Analysis of co-registered MEMRI images taken over the 26 hours after introduction of Mn2+ into the prefrontal cortex indicated that DAT KO mice have a truncated Mn2+ distribution within this circuitry with little accumulation beyond the thalamus or contralateral to the injection site. By contrast, WT littermates exhibit Mn2+ transport into more posterior midbrain nuclei and contralateral mesolimbic structures at 26 hr post-injection. Thus, DAT KO mice appear, at this level of anatomic resolution, to have preserved cortico-striatalthalamic connectivity but diminished robustness of reward-modulating circuitry distal to the thalamus. This is in contradistinction to the state of this circuitry in serotonin transporter KO mice where we observed more robust connectivity in more posterior brain regions using methods identical to those employed here.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)