Epac2 in midbrain dopamine neurons contributes to cocaine reinforcement via facilitation of dopamine release
Repeated exposure to drugs of abuse results in an upregulation of cAMP signaling in the mesolimbic dopamine system, a molecular adaptation thought to be critically involved in the development of drug dependence. Exchange protein directly activated by cAMP (Epac2) is a major cAMP effector abundantly expressed in the brain. However, it remains unknown whether Epac2 contributes to cocaine reinforcement. Here, we report that Epac2 in the mesolimbic dopamine system promotes cocaine reinforcement via enhancement of dopamine release. Conditional knockout of Epac2 from midbrain dopamine neurons (Epac2-cKO) and the selective Epac2 inhibitor ESI-05 decreased cocaine self-administration in mice under both fixed-ratio and progressive-ratio reinforcement schedules and across a broad range of cocaine doses. In addition, Epac2-cKO led to reduced evoked dopamine release, whereas Epac2 agonism robustly enhanced dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens in vitro. This mechanism is central to the behavioral effects of Epac2 disruption, as chemogenetic stimulation of ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons via deschloroclozapine (DCZ)-induced activation of Gs-DREADD increased dopamine release and reversed the impairment of cocaine self-administration in Epac2-cKO mice. Conversely, chemogenetic inhibition of VTA dopamine neurons with Gi-DREADD reduced dopamine release and cocaine self-administration in wild-type mice. Epac2-mediated enhancement of dopamine release may therefore represent a novel and powerful mechanism that contributes to cocaine reinforcement.
All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting file; Source Data files have been provided for figures 1-7. Custom code used for the analysis of the fiber photometry data is available at https://github.com/xiaojieliu17/Fiber-photometry.
Article and author information
National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA035217)
- Qing-song Liu
National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA047269)
- Qing-song Liu
National Institute of Mental Health (F30MH115536)
- Casey R Vickstrom
National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA050180)
- David A Baker
National Institute on Drug Abuse (F31DA054759)
- Vladislav Friedman
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All animal maintenance and use were in accordance with protocols (AUA #2420) approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Medical College of Wisconsin. All surgery was performed under ketamine and xylazine anesthesia, and every effort was made to minimize suffering.
- Jeremy J Day, University of Alabama at Birmingham, United States
- Received: June 2, 2022
- Preprint posted: June 16, 2022 (view preprint)
- Accepted: August 21, 2022
- Accepted Manuscript published: August 22, 2022 (version 1)
- Version of Record published: September 1, 2022 (version 2)
© 2022, Liu et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
- Page views
Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Crossref, PubMed Central, Scopus.
Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)
Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)
Cite this article (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)
The treatment of neurodegenerative diseases is hindered by lack of interventions capable of steering multimodal whole-brain dynamics towards patterns indicative of preserved brain health. To address this problem, we combined deep learning with a model capable of reproducing whole-brain functional connectivity in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD). These models included disease-specific atrophy maps as priors to modulate local parameters, revealing increased stability of hippocampal and insular dynamics as signatures of brain atrophy in AD and bvFTD, respectively. Using variational autoencoders, we visualized different pathologies and their severity as the evolution of trajectories in a low-dimensional latent space. Finally, we perturbed the model to reveal key AD- and bvFTD-specific regions to induce transitions from pathological to healthy brain states. Overall, we obtained novel insights on disease progression and control by means of external stimulation, while identifying dynamical mechanisms that underlie functional alterations in neurodegeneration.
Previous research has associated alpha-band [8–12 Hz] oscillations with inhibitory functions: for instance, several studies showed that visual attention increases alpha-band power in the hemisphere ipsilateral to the attended location. However, other studies demonstrated that alpha oscillations positively correlate with visual perception, hinting at different processes underlying their dynamics. Here, using an approach based on traveling waves, we demonstrate that there are two functionally distinct alpha-band oscillations propagating in different directions. We analyzed EEG recordings from three datasets of human participants performing a covert visual attention task (one new dataset with N = 16, two previously published datasets with N = 16 and N = 31). Participants were instructed to detect a brief target by covertly attending to the screen’s left or right side. Our analysis reveals two distinct processes: allocating attention to one hemifield increases top-down alpha-band waves propagating from frontal to occipital regions ipsilateral to the attended location, both with and without visual stimulation. These top-down oscillatory waves correlate positively with alpha-band power in frontal and occipital regions. Yet, different alpha-band waves propagate from occipital to frontal regions and contralateral to the attended location. Crucially, these forward waves were present only during visual stimulation, suggesting a separate mechanism related to visual processing. Together, these results reveal two distinct processes reflected by different propagation directions, demonstrating the importance of considering oscillations as traveling waves when characterizing their functional role.