Protein and surface expression of HCN2 and HCN4 subunits in mesocorticolimbic areas after cocaine sensitization

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The Ih is a mixed depolarizing current present in neurons which, upon activation by hyperpolarization, modulates neuronal excitability in the mesocorticolimbic (MCL) system, an area which regulates emotions such as pleasure, reward, and motivation. Its biophysical properties are determined by HCN protein expression profiles, specifically HCN subunits 1–4. Previously, we reported that cocaine-induced behavioral sensitization increases HCN2 protein expression in all MCL areas with the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) showing the most significant increase. Recent evidence suggests that HCN4 also has an important expression in the MCL system. Although there is a significant expression of HCN channels in the MCL system their role in addictive processes is largely unknown. Thus, in this study we aim to compare HCN2 and HCN4 expression profiles and their cellular compartmental distribution in the MCL system, before and after cocaine sensitization. Surface/intracellular (S/I) ratio analysis indicates that VTA HCN2 subunits are mostly expressed in the cell surface in contrast to other areas tested. Our findings demonstrate that after cocaine sensitization, the HCN2 S/I ratio in the VTA was decreased whereas in the Prefrontal Cortex it was increased. In addition, HCN4 total expression in the VTA was decreased after cocaine sensitization, although the S/I ratio was not altered. Together, these results demonstrate differential cocaine effects on HCN2 and HCN4 protein expression profiles and therefore suggest a diverse Ih modulation of cellular activity during cocaine addictive processes.HIGHLIGHTSHCN2 subunits are mostly expressed at the cell surface of VTA neurons.VTA's HCN2 Surface/intracellular ratio was decreased after cocaine sensitization.HCN4 total expression in the VTA was decreased after cocaine sensitization.

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