Long-term plasticity of corticostriatal synapses is modulated by pathway-specific co-release of opioids through κ-opioid receptors

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Synaptic plasticity in the striatum adjusts behaviour adaptively during skill learning, or maladaptively in the case of addiction. Just as dopamine plays a critical role in synaptic plasticity underlying normal skill learning and addiction, endogenous and exogenous opiates also modulate learning and addiction-related striatal plasticity. Though the role of opioid receptors in long-term depression in striatum has been characterized, their effect on long-term potentiation (LTP) remains unknown. In particular, direct pathway (dopamine D1 receptor-containing; D1R-) spiny projection neurons (SPNs) co-release the opioid neuropeptide dynorphin, which acts at presynaptic κ-opioid receptors (KORs) on dopaminergic afferents and can negatively regulate dopamine release. Therefore, we evaluated the interaction of co-released dynorphin and KOR on striatal LTP. We optogenetically facilitate the release of endogenous dynorphin from D1R-SPNs in brain slice while using whole-cell patch recording to measure changes in the synaptic response of SPNs following theta-burst stimulation (TBS) of cortical afferents. Our results demonstrate that TBS evokes corticostriatal LTP, and that optogenetic activation of D1R-SPNs during induction impairs LTP. Additional experiments demonstrate that optogenetic activation of D1R-SPNs reduces stimulation-evoked dopamine release and that bath application of a KOR antagonist provides full rescue of both LTP induction and dopamine release during optogenetic activation of D1R-SPNs. These results suggest that an increase in the opioid neuropeptide dynorphin is responsible for reduced TBS LTP and illustrate a physiological phenomenon whereby heightened D1R-SPN activity can regulate corticostriatal plasticity. Our findings have important implications for learning in addictive states marked by elevated direct pathway activation.

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