Initial D2 Dopamine Receptor Sensitivity Predicts Cocaine Sensitivity and Reward in Rats
The activation of dopamine receptors within the mesolimbic dopamine system is known to be involved in the initiation and maintenance of cocaine use. Expression of the D2 dopamine receptor subtype has been implicated as both a predisposing factor and consequence of chronic cocaine use. It is unclear whether there is a predictive relationship between D2 dopamine receptor function and cocaine sensitivity that would enable cocaine abuse. Therefore, we exploited individual differences in behavioral responses to D2 dopamine receptor stimulation to test its relationship with cocaine-mediated behaviors. Outbred, male Sprague-Dawley rats were initially characterized by their locomotor responsiveness to the D2 dopamine receptor agonist, quinpirole, in a within-session ascending dose-response regimen (0, 0.1, 0.3 & 1.0 mg/kg, sc). Rats were classified as high or low quinpirole responders (HD2 and LD2, respectively) by a median split of their quinpirole-induced locomotor activity. Rats were subsequently tested for differences in the psychostimulant effects of cocaine by measuring changes in cocaine-induced locomotor activity (5 and 15 mg/kg, ip). Rats were also tested for differences in the development of conditioned place preference to a low dose of cocaine (7.5 mg/kg, ip) that does not reliably produce a cocaine conditioned place preference. Finally, rats were tested for acquisition of cocaine self-administration and maintenance responding on fixed ratio 1 and 5 schedules of reinforcement, respectively. Results demonstrate that HD2 rats have enhanced sensitivity to the locomotor stimulating properties of cocaine, display greater cocaine conditioned place preference, and self-administer more cocaine compared to LD2 animals. These findings suggest that individual differences in D2 dopamine receptor sensitivity may be predictive of cocaine sensitivity and reward.