Exposure to drugs of abuse activates gene expression and protein synthesis that result in long-lasting adaptations in striatal signaling. Therefore, identification of the transcription factors that couple drug exposure to gene expression is of particular importance. Members of the nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFATc) family of transcription factors have recently been implicated in shaping neuronal function throughout the rodent nervous system. Here we demonstrate that regulation of NFAT-mediated gene expression may also be a factor in drug-induced changes to striatal functioning. In cultured rat striatal neurons, stimulation of D1 dopamine receptors induces NFAT-dependent transcription through activation of L-type calcium channels. Additionally, the genes encoding inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor type 1 and glutamate receptor subunit 2 are regulated by striatal NFATc4 activity. Consistent with these in-vitro data, repeated exposure to cocaine triggers striatal NFATc4 nuclear translocation and the up-regulation of inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor type 1 and glutamate receptor subunit 2 gene expression in vivo, suggesting that cocaine-induced increases in gene expression may be partially mediated through activation of NFAT-dependent transcription. Collectively, these findings reveal a novel molecular pathway that may contribute to the enduring modifications in striatal functioning that occur following the administration of drugs of abuse.
- Glutamate receptor subunit 2
- Inositol-1, 4, 5-trisphosphate receptor type 1
- Nuclear factor of activated T-cells 4