Dual Effect of 5-HT1B/1D Receptors on Dopamine Neurons in Ventral Tegmental Area: Implication for the Functional Switch After Chronic Cocaine Exposure

Ming Gao, Taleen S. Der-Ghazarian, Shuangtao Li, Shenfeng Qiu, Janet L. Neisewander, Jie Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Serotonin (5-HT) 1B/1D receptor (5-HT1B/1DR) agonists undergo an abstinence-induced switch in their effects on cocaine-related behaviors, which may involve changes in modulation of dopamine (DA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). However, it is unclear how 5-HT1B/1DRs affect VTA DA neuronal function and whether modulation of these neurons mediates the abstinence-induced switch after chronic cocaine exposure. Methods: We examined the ability of 5-HT1B/1DRs to modulate D2 autoreceptors (D2ARs) and synaptic transmission in the VTA by slice recording and single unit recording in vivo in naïve mice and in mice with chronic cocaine treatment. Results: We report a bidirectional modulation of VTA DA neuronal firing through the interaction of VTA 5-HT1B/1DRs and D2ARs. In both VTA slices and the VTA of anesthetized mice, the 5-HT1B/1DR agonist CP94253 decreased DA neuronal firing rate and evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents to DA neurons in slice. Paradoxically, CP94253 decreased quinpirole-induced inhibition of DA neurons by reducing D2AR-mediated G protein–gated inwardly rectifying potassium current. This manifested decreased GABAA (gamma-aminobutyric acid A) receptor–mediated evoked inhibitory postsynaptic currents in slice, resulting in disinhibition of DA neurons, in opposition to the 5-HT1B/1DR-induced inhibition. This dual effect was verified in chronic cocaine-treated and mild stress-treated, male mice on days 1 and 20 posttreatment. Conclusions: This study revealed dual effects of CP94253 on VTA DA neurons that are dependent on D2AR sensitivity, with anti-inhibition under normal D2AR sensitivity and inhibition under low D2AR sensitivity. These dual effects may underlie the ability of CP94253 to both enhance and inhibit cocaine-induced behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)922-934
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2020


  • Abstinence
  • CP94253
  • Cocaine
  • D autoreceptor
  • Sensitivity
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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