Peripheral Dopamine 2 Receptors Both Modulate Central Dopamine Release and Adopt in a Similar Manner to that of Central Dopamine 2 Receptors
Alcohol use disorder is a debilitating disorder affecting nearly 5% of people in the United States. Despite the prevalence of alcohol use disorder few affected individuals seek treatment and of those who do many will relapse. This highlights a need to develop new treatments for alcohol use disorder that are both more accessible and more effective. This dissertation characterizes a novel pathway involved in ethanol enhancement of dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens as well as investigating alterations in dopamine 2 receptor expression and function following an acute dose of ethanol. This was done by using microdialysis to measure dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens, single-unit recordings of dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area to measure dopamine neuron activity and place conditioning to measure the rewarding properties of the intravenous dopamine and ethanol. It was found that activation of peripheral dopamine 2 receptors by intravenous dopamine enhanced dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens and dopamine neuron firing rate in the ventral tegmental area. Additionally, intravenous dopamine produced a modest conditioned place preference. Domperidone, a peripheral dopamine 2 receptor antagonist blocked each of these effects. Further, domperidone blocked ethanol enhancement of dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens and bidirectionally modulated the sedating effects of ethanol depending on the dose of ethanol administered. The involvement of peripheral dopamine 2 receptors in ethanol reward could not be ascertained in these studies as domperidone produced a weak conditioned place aversion. Finally, acute ethanol was found to enhance dopamine 2 receptor expression in the nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex while also enhancing dopamine 2 receptor expression on NK and B cells. Additionally, ethanol was found to reduce desensitization of dopamine 2 receptors in the ventral tegmental area. These results demonstrate that activation of peripheral dopamine 2 receptors can enhance dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens and that this effect has relevance in understanding the effects of ethanol on dopamine release in the mesolimbic pathway. These results also provide evidence for transient upregulation of dopamine 2 receptors in the brain and on leukocytes suggesting that dopamine 2 receptor levels on leukocytes may be a useful biomarker for central dopamine function.