Extracellular dopamine (DA) levels in the brain directly impact a variety of physiological functions, including movement, cognition and reward. Following synaptic release, DA availability is limited by presynaptic reuptake, mediated by the plasma membrane DA transporter (DAT). DAT is a member of the SLC6 carrier gene family and is the primary target for addictive and therapeutic psychostimulants, such as amphetamine, cocaine and methylphenidate (Ritalin) as well as for antidepressants, such as bupropion (Wellbutrin). These drugs potently inhibit DA uptake, and thereby increase extracellular DA concentrations, enhance neuronal signaling and significantly modulate DA-related behaviors. Thus, DAT activity and availability critically determine normal DA neurotransmission and psychoactive drug efficacy. DAT plasma membrane presentation is not static. Rather, DAT is dynamically shuttled to and from the plasma membrane by constitutive endocytic trafficking. Protein kinase C (PKC) activation and amphetamine (AMPH) exposure modulate DAT internalization and recycling rates, ultimately decreasing DAT surface availability. Recent studies in an ADHD pedigree have identified a DAT mutant that has altered DAT trafficking kinetics, both under basal and AMPH-stimulated conditions, and altered targeting to membrane raft microdomains, thereby implicating altered DAT trafficking in human disease. However, studies investigating DAT endocytic mechanisms have yielded conflicting results and DAT cell surface behavior is not well defined. The major goal of these studies is to directly examine DAT surface dynamics by TIRF microscopy in living cells and to elucidate the endocytic mechanisms that mediate basal and regulated DAT internalization. Specifically, we aim to (1) characterize the surface dynamics of wildtype and trafficking mutant DATs, (2) test the hypothesis that basal, PKC- and AMP-stimulated DAT endocytosis are clathrin-independent and Cdc42-dependent, and (3) test the hypothesis that DAT internalization is a dynamin-independent process. These hypotheses stem from strong preliminary data that demonstrate 1) DAT surface localization primarily to clathrin-independent foci, 2) dynamin-independent DAT trafficking and 3) Cdc42-dependent DAT endocytosis. For live TIRF imaging studies, we capitalize on a novel chemical biology approach that directly couples fluorophore to cell surface DAT. This innovative technique will facilitate the first direct examination of DAT surface dynamics without binding to bulky antibodies or inhibitory ligands. Complementary biochemical studies will be performed both in neuronal cell lines and mouse striatal slices, utilizing small molecule clathrin, dynamin and Cdc42 inhibitors to acutely perturb membrane trafficking, as well as standard shRNA and GTPase mutant approaches. The information gleaned from these studies will provide a clearer understanding of DAT surface dynamics and the mechanisms mediating DAT endocytosis, both for wildtype and trafficking mutants. We anticipate that our findings will greatly impact future strategies aimed at treating affective disorders and drug addiction. Moreover, the results will undoubtedly enhance our understanding of the molecular factors influencing DA availability in the brain.

Public Health Relevance

Psychostimulant addiction and affective disorders are growing health concerns in the United States, reaching near epidemic proportions over the past several years. Despite numerous investigations into the underlying causes of these conditions, our knowledge is still rather limited. The current project will investigate how intrinsic brain mechanisms control the availability of the major targets for psychostimulants and antidepressants. Our expectation is that the forthcoming information may lead to novel therapeutic approaches for treating psychostimulant addiction.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Molecular Neuropharmacology and Signaling Study Section (MNPS)
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Pilotte, Nancy S
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University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Wu, Sijia; Fagan, Rita R; Uttamapinant, Chayasith et al. (2017) The Dopamine Transporter Recycles via a Retromer-Dependent Postendocytic Mechanism: Tracking Studies Using a Novel Fluorophore-Coupling Approach. J Neurosci 37:9438-9452
Wu, Sijia; Bellve, Karl D; Fogarty, Kevin E et al. (2015) Ack1 is a dopamine transporter endocytic brake that rescues a trafficking-dysregulated ADHD coding variant. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:15480-5
Gabriel, Luke R; Wu, Sijia; Melikian, Haley E (2014) Brain slice biotinylation: an ex vivo approach to measure region-specific plasma membrane protein trafficking in adult neurons. J Vis Exp :
Gabriel, Luke R; Wu, Sijia; Kearney, Patrick et al. (2013) Dopamine transporter endocytic trafficking in striatal dopaminergic neurons: differential dependence on dynamin and the actin cytoskeleton. J Neurosci 33:17836-46
Gabriel, Luke; Stevens, Zachary; Melikian, Haley (2009) Measuring plasma membrane protein endocytic rates by reversible biotinylation. J Vis Exp :