Plasticity of the brain’s dopamine system plays a crucial role in adaptive behavior by regulating appetitive motivation and the control of reinforcement learning. In this study, we investigated drug- and natural-reward conditioned behaviors in a mouse model in which the NMDA receptor-dependent plasticity of dopaminoceptive neurons was disrupted. We generated a transgenic mouse line with inducible selective inactivation of the NR1 subunit in neurons expressing dopamine D1 receptors (the NR1D1CreERT2mice). Whole-cell recordings of spontaneous EPSCs on neurons in the nucleus accumbens confirmed that a population of neurons lacked the NMDA receptor-dependent component of the current. This effect was accompanied by impaired long-term potentiation in the nucleus accumbens and in the CA1 area of the ventral, but not the dorsal, hippocampus. Mutant mice did not differ from control animals when tested for pavlovian or instrumental conditioning. However, NR1D1CreERT2mice acquired no preference for a context associated with administration of drugs of abuse. In the conditioned place preference paradigm, mutant mice did not spend more time in the context paired with cocaine, morphine, or ethanol, although these mice acquired a preference for sucrose jelly and an aversion to naloxone injections, as normal. Thus, we observed that the selective inducible ablation of the NMDA receptors specifically blocks drug-associated context memory with no effect on positive reinforcement in general.
Sikora, M., Tokarski, K., Bobula, B., Zajdel, J., Jastrzeȩbska, K., Cieślak, P. E., … Parkitna, J. R. (2016). NMDA receptors on dopaminoceptive neurons are essential for drug-induced conditioned place preference. ENeuro, 3(3), 5671–5685. https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0084-15.2016