Dopamine (DA) and glutamate neurotransmission is thought to be critical for psychostimulant drugs to induce immediate early genes (IEGs) in the caudate-putamen (CPu). We report here, however, that the ability of DA and glutamate NMDA receptor antagonists to attenuate amphetamine-evoked c-fos mRNA expression in the CPu depends on environmental context. When given in the home cage, amphetamine induced c-fos mRNA expression predominately in preprodynorphin and preprotachykinin mRNA-containing neurons (Dyn-SP+ cells) in the CPu. In this condition, all of the D1R, D2R and NMDAR antagonists tested dose-dependently decreased c-fos expression in Dyn-SP+ cells. When given in a novel environment, amphetamine induced c-fos mRNA in both Dyn-SP+ and preproenkephalin mRNA-containing neurons (Enk+ cells). In this condition, D1R and non-selective NMDAR antagonists dose-dependently decreased c-fos expression in Dyn-SP+ cells, but neither D2R nor NR2B-selective NMDAR antagonists had no effect. Furthermore, amphetamine-evoked c-fos expression in Enk+ cells was most sensitive to DAR and NMDAR antagonism; the lowest dose of every antagonist tested significantly decreased c-fos expression only in these cells. Finally, novelty-stress also induced c-fos expression in both Dyn-SP+ and Enk+ cells, and this was relatively resistant to all but D1R antagonists. We suggest that the mechanism(s) by which amphetamine evokes c-fos expression in the CPu varies depending on the stimulus (amphetamine vs. stress), the striatal cell population engaged (Dyn-SP+ vs. Enk+ cells), and environmental context (home vs. novel cage).
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