Ghrelin Amplifies Dopamine Signaling by Cross Talk Involving Formation of Growth Hormone Secretagogue Receptor/Dopamine Receptor Subtype 1 Heterodimers

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Our objective is to determine the neuromodulatory role of ghrelin in the brain. To identify neurons that express the ghrelin receptor [GH secretagogue receptor (GHS-R)], we generated GHS-R-IRES-tauGFP mice by gene targeting. Neurons expressing the GHS-R exhibit green fluorescence and are clearly evident in the hypothalamus, hippocampus, cortex, and midbrain. Using immunohistochemistry in combination with green fluorescent protein fluorescence, we identified neurons that coexpress the dopamine receptor subtype 1 (D1R) and GHS-R. The potential physiological relevance of coexpression of these two receptors and the direct effect of ghrelin on dopamine signaling was investigated in vitro. Activation of GHS-R by ghrelin amplifies dopamine/D1R-induced cAMP accumulation. Intriguingly, amplification involves a switch in G protein coupling of the GHS-R from Gα11/q to Gαi/o by a mechanism consistent with agonist-dependent formation of GHS-R/D1R heterodimers. Most importantly, these results indicate that ghrelin has the potential to amplify dopamine signaling selectively in neurons that coexpress D1R and GHS-R.

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