The dopamine (DA) transporter (DAT) controls DA homeostasis and neurotransmission by the active reuptake of synaptically released DA. The DAT is the major molecular target responsible for the rewarding properties and abuse potential of amphetamine (AMPH) and cocaine. AMPH acts as a DAT substrate, and, through a mechanism not fully understood, promotes the efflux of DA (reversal of DAT's transport of DA) into the extracellular space. This increase of extracellular DA levels is an event of importance for the psychomotor stimulant properties of AMPHs. The N-terminus of the DAT is a structural domain critical to AMPH's ability to cause DA efflux. We have shown that the soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE) protein syntaxin1 (Stx1) interacts with the DAT N-terminus and this interaction supports the ability of AMPH to cause DA efflux. Additionally, Stx1 is known to be phosphorylated at Ser14 by casein kinase 2 (CK2)1, an event we hypothesize is promoted by AMPH and promotes DAT-Stx1 association supporting, therefore, DA efflux. Our molecular hypothesis is that AMPH induces Stx1 phosphorylation, leading to the association of Stx1 with the DAT N-terminus and thereby triggering DAT-mediated DA efflux. We propose to test our molecular hypothesis through the following specific aim: 1) To determine the roles of CK2 and Stx1 phosphorylation in AMPH- induced DA efflux. Next, we will test our molecular discoveries in vivo. We have developed Drosophila melanogaster as a model to test the behavioral effects of AMPH. In this system, we have established that locomotion is a DAT- regulated behavior and is stimulated by AMPH. Deletion of Drosophila DAT (dDAT) in DA neurons inhibits AMPH's ability to induce locomotion in flies. AMPH-induced locomotion is restored by the expression of the human DAT (hDAT) in dDAT-deficient DA neurons. With this strategy, we will translate our molecular observations to an in vivo model, allowing us to test behavioral validity. Our in vivo hypothesis is that AMPH- induced behaviors (e.g., locomotion) are dependent on CK2-mediated Stx1 phosphorylation. Thus, our second specific aim is: 2) To determine the role of CK2 and Stx1 phosphorylation in AMPH-induced behaviors. The long term goal of this research is to learn how to selectively manipulate different aspects of the DAT transport cycle to impair DA efflux and AMPH behaviors. Supported by our preliminary data, we hypothesize that inhibiting CK2 function will specifically impair DAT-mediated DA efflux, but not DAT-mediated DA uptake. This proposed research will uncover a new druggable target (CK2) for the treatment of AMPH abuse.

Public Health Relevance

The dopamine transporter is responsible for the abuse potential and the rewarding properties of amphetamine. The dopamine transporter is also a target for cocaine. Our effort is to understand how this transporter is regulated in health and in disease which includes psychostimulant abuse.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Babecki, Beth
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Schools of Medicine
United States
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