Cellular mechanisms underlying the effects of repeated D₂-like agonist treatment on prepulse Inhibition
Patients with schizophrenia have deficits in sensorimotor gating, the ability to gate out irrelevant stimuli in order to attend to relevant stimuli. Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle response is a reliable and valid model of sensorimotor gating across species. Repeated D2-like agonist treatment alleviates prior PPI deficits in rats, termed a PPI recovery, and is observable 28 days after treatment. The aim of the current project is to illuminate the underlying mechanism for this persistent change of behavior and determine the clinical relevance of repeated D2-like agonist treatment. Our results revealed a significant increase in Delta FosB, a transcription factor, in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) 10 days after repeated D2-like agonist treatment. Additionally, we investigated if Delta FosB was necessary for long-lasting PPI recovery and discovered a bilateral infusion of dominant-negative Delta JunD prevented PPI recovery after repeated D2-like agonist treatment. To further develop the underlying mechanism of PPI recovery, we observed that dominant negative mutant cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) response biding element protein (CREB) prevented repeated D2-like agonist-induced Delta FosB expression in the NAc. We then compared our previous behavioral and intracellular findings to the results of repeated aripiprazole, a novel D2-like partial agonist antipsychotic, to determine if repeated D2-like receptor agonist action is a clinically relevant pharmacological approach. As compared to previous PPI recovery and Delta FosB expression after repeated D2-like agonist treatment, we found similar PPI recovery and Delta FosB expression after repeated aripiprazole treatment in rats. We can conclude that repeated D2-like agonist treatment produces persistent PPI recovery through CREB phosphorylation and Delta FosB, which is necessary for PPI recovery. Furthermore, this pharmacological approach produces behavioral and intracellular changes similar to an effective novel antipsychotic. These findings suggest the underlying intracellular mechanism for sustained PPI recovery is clinically relevant and may be a potential target of therapeutic intervention to alleviate sensorimotor gating deficits, which are associated with cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.