Differential behavioral reinforcement effects of dopamine receptor agonists in the rat with bilateral lesion of the posterior ventral tegmental area

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Abstract

Dopamine dysregulation syndrome in Parkinson's disease has been attributed to dopamine replacement therapies and/or a lesion of the dopaminergic system. The dopaminergic neuronal loss targets the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area (VTA). We hypothesize that dopamine replacement therapy is responsible for the potential reinforcement effect in Parkinson's disease by acting on the neuronal reward circuitry. Therefore this study was designed to explore the potential motivational effect of dopamine replacement therapy in bilateral VTA-lesioned animals. The posterior (p)VTA, which project to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) constitutes the major dopamine neuronal circuitry implicated in addictive disorders. Using the conditioned place preference (CPP) behavioral paradigm, we investigated the motivational effects of dopamine receptor agonists, and cocaine in rat with a 6-OHDA bilateral lesion of the pVTA. Amongst the dopamine receptor agonists used in this study only the D2R and D3R agonists (bromocriptine, PD128907 and pramipexole), induced a significant CPP in pVTA-lesioned animals. Dopamine receptor agonists did not induce behavioral sensitization in sham animals. Moreover, confocal D2R immunostaining analysis showed a significant increase in the number of D2R per cell body in the NAc shell of pVTA lesioned rats compared to sham. This result correlated, for the first time, the dopamine receptor agonists effect with DR2 overexpression in the NAc shell of pVTA-lesioned rats. In addition, cocaine, which is known to increase dopamine release, induced behavioral sensitization in sham group but not in dopamine deprived group. Thus, the later result highlighted the importance of pVTA–NAc dopaminergic pathway in positive reinforcements. Altogether these data suggested that the implication of the dopamine replacement therapy in the appearance of dopamine dysregulation syndrome in Parkinson's disease is probably due to both neuronal degeneration in the posterior VTA and dopamine receptor sensitization in the dopamine depleted NAc.

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