Publications by authors named "Fabrizio Sanna"

48 Publications

The potential role of oxytocin in addiction: What is the target process?

Curr Opin Pharmacol 2021 Apr 9;58:8-20. Epub 2021 Apr 9.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Monserrato, Cagliari 09042, Italy. Electronic address:

Oxytocin regulates a variety of centrally-mediated functions, ranging from socio-sexual behavior, maternal care, and affiliation to fear, stress, anxiety. In the past years, both clinical and preclinical studies characterized oxytocin for its modulatory role on reward-related neural substrates mainly involving the interplay with the mesolimbic and mesocortical dopaminergic pathways. This suggests a role of this nonapeptide on the neurobiology of addiction raising the possibility of its therapeutic use. Although far from a precise knowledge of the underlying mechanisms, the putative role of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis as a key structure where oxytocin may rebalance altered neurochemical processes and neuroplasticity involved in dependence and relapse has been highlighted. This view opens new opportunities to address the health problems related to drug misuse.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.coph.2021.03.002DOI Listing
April 2021

Exploring the variability of radiomic features of lung cancer lesions on unenhanced and contrast-enhanced chest CT imaging.

Phys Med 2021 Feb 12;82:321-331. Epub 2021 Mar 12.

Institute of Radiological Sciences, University of Sassari, Italy.

Purpose: The aim of this methods work is to explore the different behavior of radiomic features resulting by using or not the contrast medium in chest CT imaging of non-small cell lung cancer.

Methods: Chest CT scans, unenhanced and contrast-enhanced, of 17 patients were selected from images collected as part of the staging process. The major T1-T3 lesion was contoured through a semi-automatic approach. These lesions formed the lesion phantoms to study features behavior. The stability of 94 features of the 3D-Slicer package Radiomics was analyzed. Feature discrimination power was quantified by means of Gini's coefficient. Correlation between distance matrices was evaluated through Mantel statistic. Heatmap, cluster and silhouette plots were applied to find well-structured partitions of lesions.

Results: The Gini's coefficient evidenced a low discrimination power, <0.05, for four features and a large discrimination power, around 0.8, for five features. About 90% of features was affected by the contrast medium, masking tumor lesions variability; thirteen features only were found stable. On 8178 combinations of stable features, only one group of four features produced the same partition of lesions with the silhouette width greater than 0.51, both on unenhanced and contrast-enhanced images.

Conclusions: Gini's coefficient highlighted the features discrimination power in both CT series. Many features were sensitive to the use of the contrast medium, masking the lesions intrinsic variability. Four stable features produced, on both series, the same partition of cancer lesions with reasonable structure; this may merit being objects of further validation studies and interpretative investigations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmp.2021.02.014DOI Listing
February 2021

Age-Related Cognitive Decline and the Olfactory Identification Deficit Are Associated to Increased Level of Depression.

Front Neurosci 2021 22;15:599593. Epub 2021 Feb 22.

Section of Physiology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Monserrato, Italy.

Purpose: Previous studies reported a correlation between olfactory function and depression. However, in literature, no data are available for the correlation between depression and all other factors such as age, sex, olfactory, gustatory, and cognitive function in healthy subjects taken together. The aim of this study was to provide a systematic account regarding the association between those variables in a non-clinical population.

Methods: Two hundred and seventy-three participants were recruited with an age range of 19-84 years. Olfactory, gustatory, cognitive function, and depression level were evaluated by means of the following tests: the Sniffin' Sticks test, Taste Strips test, Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).

Results: In our data, an age-related decrease in olfactory and gustatory function and a decline in cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and language were observed. Instead, no significant differences were observed for the depression level in relation to the different age ranges. However, our results indicated that the depression level could be associated to sex, odor identification impairment, and decreased attention and language.

Conclusion: Sex, the odor identification impairment, and an age-related decrease in attention and language are associated with increased level of depression in healthy subjects. Our data can be useful and informative for health care workers, that is, to have adequate preventive strategies to be used whenever these conditions are detected and recognized.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2021.599593DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7937898PMC
February 2021

Editorial: Sexual Behavior as a Model for the Study of Motivational Drive and Related Behaviors.

Front Behav Neurosci 2020 4;14:121. Epub 2020 Sep 4.

CNR Neuroscience Institute, National Research Council, Cagliari, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00121DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7498721PMC
September 2020

Chronic Administration of Fipronil Heterogeneously Alters the Neurochemistry of Monoaminergic Systems in the Rat Brain.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 Aug 9;21(16). Epub 2020 Aug 9.

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (Unité Mixte de Recherche 5287), 146 rue Léo Saignat, B.P.281, F-33000 Bordeaux CEDEX, France.

Fipronil (FPN), a widely used pesticide for agricultural and non-agricultural pest control, is possibly neurotoxic for mammals. Brain monoaminergic systems, involved in virtually all brain functions, have been shown to be sensitive to numerous pesticides. Here, we addressed the hypothesis that chronic exposure to FPN could modify brain monoamine neurochemistry. FPN (10 mg/kg) was chronically administered for 21 days through oral gavage in rats. Thereafter, the tissue concentrations of dopamine (DA) and its metabolites, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid; serotonin (5-HT) and its metabolite, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA); and noradrenaline (NA) were measured in 30 distinct brain regions. FPN significantly decreased DA and its metabolite levels in most striatal territories, including the nucleus accumbens and the substantia nigra (SN). FPN also diminished 5-HT levels in some striatal regions and the SN. The indirect index of the turnovers, DOPAC/DA and 5-HIAA/5-HT ratios, was increased in numerous brain regions. FPN reduced the NA content only in the nucleus accumbens core. Using the Bravais-Pearson test to study the neurochemical organization of monoamines through multiple correlative analyses across the brain, we found fewer correlations for NA, DOPAC/DA, and 5-HIAA/5-HT ratios, and an altered pattern of correlations within and between monoamine systems. We therefore conclude that the chronic administration of FPN in rats induces massive and inhomogeneous changes in the DA and 5-HT systems in the brain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21165711DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7461054PMC
August 2020

Efficacy and safety of 5-Hydroxytryptophan on levodopa-induced motor complications in Parkinson's disease: A preliminary finding.

J Neurol Sci 2020 Aug 29;415:116869. Epub 2020 Apr 29.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.

Background And Purpose: Several studies have indicated that altered serotonergic neurotransmission may contribute to the motor features commonly associated with Parkinson's disease (PD) drug treatment such as levodopa-induced dyskinesias (LIDs). 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is the immediate precursor of serotonin. We have recently demonstrated that 5-HTP produces significant antidyskinetic effects in a rat model of PD. To date, there has been inconsistent research on the use of 5-HTP in PD. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of 5-HTP versus placebo on levodopa-induced motor complications in PD patients.

Material And Methods: A single-center, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over study was performed. A total of 12 PD patients were diagnosed with LIDs and motor fluctuactions and subsequently were randomized to intervention; 11 subjects completed the entire 16-week protocol. Patients received placebo or 50 mg of 5-HTP daily in a cross-over design over a period of 4 weeks. For the assessment of efficacy on the motor functions and motor complications, the UPDRS (parts III and IV), Unified Dyskinesia Rating Scale (UDysRS), Wearing-Off Questionnaire (WOQ-19) and the self-reported 24-h home dyskinesia diaries were obtained at baseline and weeks 4, 8, 12 and 16 (T-end).

Results: Repeated measures analysis revealed a significant improvement of LIDs during the 50 mg 5-HTP treatment as assessed by the UDysRS and UPDRS-IV scores.

Conclusions: This study provides preliminary evidence of clinical benefit of 5-HTP against LIDs in PD. Larger studies with a longer treatment duration and a wider range of doses are warranted to corroborate these findings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jns.2020.116869DOI Listing
August 2020

Altered Sexual Behavior in Dopamine Transporter (DAT) Knockout Male Rats: A Behavioral, Neurochemical and Intracerebral Microdialysis Study.

Front Behav Neurosci 2020 20;14:58. Epub 2020 Apr 20.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, Centre of Excellence for the Neurobiology of Addictions, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.

Central dopamine plays a key role in sexual behavior. Recently, a Dopamine Transporter knockout (DAT KO) rat has been developed, which displays several behavioral dysfunctions that have been related to increased extracellular dopamine levels and altered dopamine turnover secondary to DAT gene silencing. This prompted us to characterize the sexual behavior of these DAT KO rats and their heterozygote (HET) and wild type (WT) counterparts in classical copulatory tests with a sexually receptive female rat and to verify if and how the acquisition of sexual experience changes along five copulatory tests in these rat lines. Extracellular dopamine and glutamic acid concentrations were also measured in the dialysate obtained by intracerebral microdialysis from the nucleus accumbens (Acb) shell of DAT KO, HET and WT rats, which underwent five copulatory tests, when put in the presence of an inaccessible sexually receptive female rat and when copulation was allowed. Markers of neurotropism (BDNF, trkB), neural activation (Δ-FosB), functional (Arc and PSA-NCAM) and structural synaptic plasticity (synaptophysin, syntaxin-3, PSD-95) were also measured in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), Acb (shell and core) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) by Western Blot assays. The results indicate that the sexual behavior of DAT KO vs. HET and WT rats shows peculiar differences, mainly due to a more rapid acquisition of stable sexual activity levels and to higher levels of sexual motivation and activity. These differences occurred with differential changes in dopamine and glutamic acid concentrations in Acb dialysates during sexual behavior, with lower increases of dopamine and glutamic acid in DAT KO vs. WT and HET rats, and a lower expression of the markers investigated, mainly in the mPFC, in DAT KO vs. WT rats. Together these findings confirm a key role of dopamine in sexual behavior and provide evidence that the permanently high levels of dopamine triggered by DAT gene silencing cause alterations in both the frontocortical glutamatergic neurons projecting to the Acb and VTA and in the mesolimbic dopaminergic neurons, leading to specific brain regional changes in trophic support and neuroplastic processes, which may have a role in the sexual behavior differences found among the three rat genotypes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00058DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7185326PMC
April 2020

The pesticide fipronil injected into the substantia nigra of male rats decreases striatal dopamine content: A neurochemical, immunohistochemical and behavioral study.

Behav Brain Res 2020 04 15;384:112562. Epub 2020 Feb 15.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.

Experimental evidence shows that the phenylpyrazole pesticide fipronil exerts neurotoxic effects at central level in rodents, and in particular on nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons, whose degeneration is well known to cause motor and non-motor deficits in animals and in humans. In order to characterize better the central neurotoxic effect of fipronil, we injected fipronil (15 and 25 μg) dissolved in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) unilaterally into the substantia nigra of male rats. Male rats injected with DMSO unilaterally into the substantia nigra were used as controls. Control and fipronil-treated rats were then tested in different motor (i.e., open field arena, rotarod, tail flick) and non motor tests (novel object recognition, social interaction) 15 days after injection. A systemic challenge dose of the dopamine-agonist apomorphine was also used to study the presence of a rotational behavior. Sixteen days after fipronil or DMSO injection into the substantia nigra, rats were sacrificed, and either striatal dopamine content or substantia nigra tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunoreactivity were measured. The results confirm that the unilateral injection of fipronil into the substantia nigra caused the degeneration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons, which leads to a decrease around 50 % in striatal dopamine content and substantia nigra TH imunoreactivity. This occurred together with changes in motor activity and coordination, and in nociception but not in recognition memory and in social interaction, as revealed by the results of the behavioral experiments performed in fipronil-treated rats compared to vehicle-treated rats 15 days after treatment, as found with other compounds that destroy nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2020.112562DOI Listing
April 2020

Oxytocin induces penile erection and yawning when injected into the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis: A microdialysis and immunohistochemical study.

Behav Brain Res 2019 12 10;375:112147. Epub 2019 Aug 10.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.

Oxytocin (5, 20 and 100 ng) injected unilaterally into the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) of male rats stereotaxically implanted with a microinjection cannula coupled to a microdialysis probe, induces penile erection and yawning that occur concomitantly with a dose-dependent increase in the extracellular concentration of glutamic acid, dopamine and its main metabolite 3,4-dihydroxyphenilacetic acid (DOPAC), and nitrites (NO) in the dialysate obtained from the BNST by intracerebral microdialysis. The responses induced by oxytocin (100 ng) were all abolished by the oxytocin receptor antagonist d(CH)Tyr(Me)-Orn-vasotocin (1 μg), and reduced by CNQX (1 μg), a competitive antagonist of the AMPA receptors, both given into the BNST 25 min before oxytocin. In contrast, (+) MK-801 (1 μg), a non-competitive antagonist of NMDA receptors, and SCH 23390 (1 μg), a selective dopamine D1 receptor antagonist, reduced penile erection and yawning, but not glutamic acid and dopamine increases in the BNST dialysate induced by oxytocin. Immunohistochemistry revealed oxytocin-labelled neuronal structures in close proximity to tyrosine hydroxylase-labelled neurons or nitric oxide synthase-labelled cell bodies surrounded by intense vesicular glutamate transporter1-stained synapses in BNST sections where oxytocin injections induce the above responses. Together, these findings show that oxytocin injected into the BNST induces penile erection and yawning by activating not only the glutamatergic (and nitrergic) but also the dopaminergic neurotransmission, leading in turn to the activation of neural pathways mediating penile erection and yawning.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2019.112147DOI Listing
December 2019

Effect of Acute Stress on the Expression of BDNF, trkB, and PSA-NCAM in the Hippocampus of the Roman Rats: A Genetic Model of Vulnerability/Resistance to Stress-Induced Depression.

Int J Mol Sci 2018 Nov 24;19(12). Epub 2018 Nov 24.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Cytomorphology, University of Cagliari, Cittadella Universitaria di Monserrato, 09042 Monserrato (CA), Italy.

The Roman High-Avoidance (RHA) and the Roman Low-Avoidance (RLA) rats, represent two psychogenetically-selected lines that are, respectively, resistant and prone to displaying depression-like behavior, induced by stressors. In the view of the key role played by the neurotrophic factors and neuronal plasticity, in the pathophysiology of depression, we aimed at assessing the effects of acute stress, i.e., forced swimming (FS), on the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), its trkB receptor, and the Polysialilated-Neural Cell Adhesion Molecule (PSA-NCAM), in the dorsal (dHC) and ventral (vHC) hippocampus of the RHA and the RLA rats, by means of western blot and immunohistochemical assays. A 15 min session of FS elicited different changes in the expression of BDNF in the dHC and the vHC. In RLA rats, an increment in the CA2 and CA3 subfields of the dHC, and a decrease in the CA1 and CA3 subfields and the dentate gyrus (DG) of the vHC, was observed. On the other hand, in the RHA rats, no significant changes in the BDNF levels was seen in the dHC and there was a decrease in the CA1, CA3, and DG of the vHC. Line-related changes were also observed in the expression of trkB and PSA-NCAM. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that the differences in the BDNF/trkB signaling and neuroplastic mechanisms are involved in the susceptibility of RLA rats and resistance of RHA rats to stress-induced depression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms19123745DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6320970PMC
November 2018

c-Fos, ΔFosB, BDNF, trkB and Arc Expression in the Limbic System of Male Roman High- and Low-Avoidance Rats that Show Differences in Sexual Behavior: Effect of Sexual Activity.

Neuroscience 2019 01 10;396:1-23. Epub 2018 Nov 10.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Cytomorphology, University of Cagliari, SS 554, km 4,500, 09042 Monserrato, Cagliari, Italy. Electronic address:

Male Roman High- (RHA) and Low-Avoidance (RLA) rats display significant differences in sexual behavior (RHA rats exhibit higher sexual motivation and better copulatory performance than RLA rats). These differences are very evident in sexually naïve rats (which copulate with a receptive female rat for the first time), and are still present, although reduced, after five copulatory tests, when sexual experience has been acquired. Since sexual activity is a natural reward that induces neural activation and synaptic plastic changes in limbic brain areas, we studied whether the differences in sexual activity between these rat lines are accompanied by changes in the expression of markers of neural activation and plasticity, i.e., c-Fos, ΔFosB (a truncated form of FosB), Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and its tyrosine kinase receptor B (trkB) and Activity regulated cytoskeleton-associated (Arc) protein in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), nucleus accumbens (Acb) (core and shell) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of sexually naïve and experienced RHA and RLA rats by Western Blot and/or immunohistochemistry. This study shows that these markers changed differentially in the VTA, Acb and mPFC of RHA and RLA rats, after sexual activity. In both rat lines, the changes were very evident in naïve rats, tended to disappear in experienced rats and were higher in RHA than RLA rats. These findings confirm that sexual activity induces neural activation in limbic brain areas involved in motivation and reward, leading to changes in synaptic plasticity with sexual experience acquisition, and show that these depend on the animals' genotypic/phenotypic characteristics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.11.002DOI Listing
January 2019

The Modulating Role of Sex and Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Hormones in Cannabinoid Sensitivity.

Front Behav Neurosci 2018 26;12:249. Epub 2018 Oct 26.

CNR Institute of Neuroscience-Cagliari, National Research Council, Rome, Italy.

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug worldwide. Although its use is associated with multiple adverse health effects, including the risk of developing addiction, recreational and medical cannabis use is being increasing legalized. In addition, use of synthetic cannabinoid drugs is gaining considerable popularity and is associated with mass poisonings and occasional deaths. Delineating factors involved in cannabis use and addiction therefore becomes increasingly important. Similarly to other drugs of abuse, the prevalence of cannabis use and addiction differs remarkably between males and females, suggesting that sex plays a role in regulating cannabinoid sensitivity. Although it remains unclear how sex may affect the initiation and maintenance of cannabis use in humans, animal studies strongly suggest that endogenous sex hormones modulate cannabinoid sensitivity. In addition, synthetic anabolic-androgenic steroids alter substance use and further support the importance of sex steroids in controlling drug sensitivity. The recent discovery that pregnenolone, the precursor of all steroid hormones, controls cannabinoid receptor activation corroborates the link between steroid hormones and the endocannabinoid system. This article reviews the literature regarding the influence of endogenous and synthetic steroid hormones on the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid action.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00249DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6212868PMC
October 2018

Rats selectively bred for showing divergent behavioral traits in response to stress or novelty or spontaneous yawning with a divergent frequency show similar changes in sexual behavior: the role of dopamine.

Rev Neurosci 2019 05;30(4):427-454

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Cagliari, SS 554, km 4,500, Monserrato I-09042, Cagliari, Italy.

Sexual behavior plays a fundamental role for reproduction in mammals and other animal species. It is characterized by an anticipatory and a consummatory phase, and several copulatory parameters have been identified in each phase, mainly in rats. Sexual behavior varies significantly across rats even when they are of the same strain and reared under identical conditions. This review shows that rats of the same strain selectively bred for showing a divergent behavioral trait when exposed to stress or novelty (i.e. Roman high and low avoidance rats, bred for their different avoidance response to the shuttle box, and high and low novelty exploration responders rats, bred for their different exploratory response to a novel environment) or a spontaneous behavior with divergent frequency (i.e. low and high yawning frequency rats, bred for their divergent yawning frequency) show similar differences in sexual behavior, mainly in copulatory pattern, but also in sexual motivation. As shown by behavioral pharmacology and intracerebral microdialysis experiments carried out mainly in Roman rats, these sexual differences may be due to a more robust dopaminergic tone present in the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic system of one of the two sub-lines (e.g. high avoidance, high novelty exploration, and low yawning rat sub-lines). Thus, differences in genotype and/or in prenatal/postnatal environment lead not only to individual differences in temperament and environmental/emotional reactivity but also in sexual behavior. Because of the highly conserved mechanisms controlling reproduction in mammals, this may occur not only in rats but also in humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2018-0058DOI Listing
May 2019

Cannabinoid Modulation of Eukaryotic Initiation Factors (eIF2α and eIF2B1) and Behavioral Cross-Sensitization to Cocaine in Adolescent Rats.

Cell Rep 2018 03;22(11):2909-2923

Department of Neuroscience, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA; Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, MD 20815, USA; Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, New York, NY 10027, USA; Kavli Institute for Brain Science, New York, NY 10032, USA. Electronic address:

Reduced eukaryotic Initiation Factor 2 (eIF2)α phosphorylation (p-eIF2α) enhances protein synthesis, memory formation, and addiction-like behaviors. However, p-eIF2α has not been examined with regard to psychoactive cannabinoids and cross-sensitization. Here, we find that a cannabinoid receptor agonist (WIN 55,212-2 mesylate [WIN]) reduced p-eIF2α in vitro by upregulating GADD34 (PPP1R15A), the recruiter of protein phosphatase 1 (PP1). The induction of GADD34 was linked to ERK/CREB signaling and to CREB-binding protein (CBP)-mediated histone hyperacetylation at the Gadd34 locus. In vitro, WIN also upregulated eIF2B1, an eIF2 activator subunit. We next found that WIN administration in vivo reduced p-eIF2α in the nucleus accumbens of adolescent, but not adult, rats. By contrast, WIN increased dorsal striatal levels of eIF2B1 and ΔFosB among both adolescents and adults. In addition, we found cross-sensitization between WIN and cocaine only among adolescents. These findings show that cannabinoids can modulate eukaryotic initiation factors, and they suggest a possible link between p-eIF2α and the gateway drug properties of psychoactive cannabinoids.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2018.02.065DOI Listing
March 2018

The Roman high- and low-avoidance rats differ in the sensitivity to shock-induced suppression of drinking and to the anxiogenic effect of pentylenetetrazole.

Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2018 04 2;167:29-35. Epub 2018 Mar 2.

Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, Section of Pharmaceutical, Pharmacological and Nutraceutical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Monserrato (CA), Italy. Electronic address:

The Roman high- (RHA) and low-avoidance (RLA) outbred rat lines are selected for respectively rapid vs. poor acquisition of active avoidant behavior. Emotional reactivity appears to be the most prominent behavioral difference between the two lines, with RLA rats being more fearful/anxious than their RHA counterparts. Accordingly, here we show that shock-induced inhibition of drinking behavior in the Vogel's test is significantly more pronounced in RLA than RHA rats. Thus, unpunished drinking activity is similar in both lines (38.1 ± 0.9 and 36.4 ± 0.6 licking periods/3 min in RLA and RHA rats, respectively), whereas under punished conditions (0.05-1.00 mA electric shocks delivered through the drinking tube) a more robust decrease in drinking behavior is observed in RLA vs. RHA rats. Moreover, fear-related behaviors like freezing and self-grooming are more frequent in RLA than RHA rats throughout the test. Similar results are obtained with the inbred RHA-I and RLA-I rats, which have been selected and bred through brother/sister mating of the outbred lines. In keeping with the above findings, we also show that, compared with their RHA counterparts, the outbred RLA rats are similarly responsive to the anticonflict effect of diazepam but more responsive to the proconflict effect of pentylenetetrazole in the Vogel's test. Collectively, these results reveal another behavioral trait distinguishing RHA from RLA rats and add experimental support to the view that the Roman lines/strains are a valid genetic model for the study of the neural underpinnings of fear/anxiety- and stress-related behaviors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2018.02.004DOI Listing
April 2018

Comparison between male and female rats in a model of self-administration of a chocolate-flavored beverage: Behavioral and neurochemical studies.

Behav Brain Res 2018 05 7;344:28-41. Epub 2018 Feb 7.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, SS 554, km 4,500, 09042 Monserrato, Cagliari, Italy; Neuroscience Institute, National Research Council of Italy, Section of Cagliari, SS 554, km 4,500, 09042 Monserrato, Cagliari, Italy.

The existence of sex differences was studied in a rat model of operant self-administration of a chocolate-flavored beverage (CFB), which possesses strong reinforcing properties and is avidly consumed by rats. Whether these differences occurred concomitantly to changes in extracellular dopamine in the dialysate obtained from the nucleus accumbens, was assessed by intracerebral microdialysis. Male, ovariectomized and intact female rats showed similar self-administration profiles, with minor differences in both acquisition and maintenance phases. Intact females self-administered larger amounts of CFB, when expressed per body weight, than males and ovariectomized females, in spite of similar values of lever-responding, latency to the first lever-response and consumption efficiency (a measure of rat's licking effectiveness) in males, ovariectomized and intact females and no difference in breakpoint value and number of lever-responses emerged when males, ovariectomized and intact females were exposed to a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement. Intracerebral microdialysis revealed a slight but significant increase in dopamine activity in the shell of the nucleus accumbens of male rats when compared to intact female rats during CFB self-administration. The above differences may be caused by the hormonal (mainly estradiol) fluctuations that occur during the estrus cycle in intact females. Accordingly, in intact females CFB self-administration and dopamine activity were found to fluctuate across the estrus cycle, with lower parameters of CFB self-administration and lower dopamine activity in the Proestrus and Estrus phases vs. the Metestrus and Diestrus phases of the cycle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2018.02.004DOI Listing
May 2018

Pronounced Hyperactivity, Cognitive Dysfunctions, and BDNF Dysregulation in Dopamine Transporter Knock-out Rats.

J Neurosci 2018 02 18;38(8):1959-1972. Epub 2018 Jan 18.

St. Petersburg State University, Institute of Translational Biomedicine, Universitetskaya Emb. 7-9, 199034 St. Petersburg, Russia,

Dopamine (DA) controls many vital physiological functions and is critically involved in several neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The major function of the plasma membrane dopamine transporter (DAT) is the rapid uptake of released DA into presynaptic nerve terminals leading to control of both the extracellular levels of DA and the intracellular stores of DA. Here, we present a newly developed strain of rats in which the gene encoding DAT knockout Rats (DAT-KO) has been disrupted by using zinc finger nuclease technology. Male and female DAT-KO rats develop normally but weigh less than heterozygote and wild-type rats and demonstrate pronounced spontaneous locomotor hyperactivity. While striatal extracellular DA lifetime and concentrations are significantly increased, the total tissue content of DA is markedly decreased demonstrating the key role of DAT in the control of DA neurotransmission. Hyperactivity of DAT-KO rats can be counteracted by amphetamine, methylphenidate, the partial Trace Amine-Associated Receptor 1 (TAAR1) agonist RO5203648 ((S)-4-(3,4-Dichloro-phenyl)-4,5-dihydro-oxazol-2-ylamine) and haloperidol. DAT-KO rats also demonstrate a deficit in working memory and sensorimotor gating tests, less propensity to develop obsessive behaviors and show strong dysregulation in frontostriatal BDNF function. DAT-KO rats could provide a novel translational model for human diseases involving aberrant DA function and/or mutations affecting DAT or related regulatory mechanisms. Here, we present a newly developed strain of rats in which the gene encoding the dopamine transporter (DAT) has been disrupted (Dopamine Transporter Knockout rats [DAT-KO rats]). DAT-KO rats display functional hyperdopaminergia accompanied by pronounced spontaneous locomotor hyperactivity. Hyperactivity of DAT-KO rats can be counteracted by amphetamine, methylphenidate, and a few other compounds exerting inhibitory action on dopamine-dependent hyperactivity. DAT-KO rats also demonstrate cognitive deficits in working memory and sensorimotor gating tests, less propensity to develop compulsive behaviors, and strong dysregulation in frontostriatal BDNF function. These observations highlight the key role of DAT in the control of brain dopaminergic transmission. DAT-KO rats could provide a novel translational model for human diseases involving aberrant dopamine functions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1931-17.2018DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5824739PMC
February 2018

Oxytocin induces penile erection and yawning when injected into the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis: Involvement of glutamic acid, dopamine, and nitric oxide.

Horm Behav 2017 11;96:52-61

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, SS 554, km 4,500, 09042 Monserrato, Cagliari, Italy; Centre of Excellence for the Neurobiology of Addictions, University of Cagliari, SS 554, km 4,500, 09042 Monserrato, Cagliari, Italy.

Oxytocin (5-100ng), but not Arg-vasopressin (100ng), injected unilaterally into the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) induces penile erection and yawning in a dose-dependent manner in male rats. The minimal effective dose was 20ng for penile erection and 5ng for yawning. Oxytocin responses were abolished not only by the oxytocin receptor antagonist d(CH)Tyr(Me)-Orn-vasotocin (1μg), but also by (+) MK-801 (1μg), an excitatory amino acid receptor antagonist of the N-methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) subtype, SCH 23390 (1μg), a D1 receptor antagonist, but not haloperidol (1μg), a D2 receptor antagonist, and SMTC (40μg), an inhibitor of neuronal nitric oxide synthase, injected into the BNST 15min before oxytocin. Oxytocin-induced penile erection, but not yawning, was also abolished by CNQX (1μg), an excitatory amino acid receptor antagonist of the AMPA subtype. In contrast, oxytocin responses were not reduced by bicuculline (20ng), a GABA receptor antagonist, phaclofen (5μg), a GABA receptor antagonist, CP 376395, a CRF receptor-1 antagonist (5μg), or astressin 2B, a CRF receptor-2 antagonist (150ng). Considering the ability of NMDA (100ng) to induce penile erection and yawning when injected into the BNST and the available evidence showing possible interaction among oxytocin, glutamic acid, and dopamine in the BNST, oxytocin possibly activates glutamatergic neurotransmission in the BNST. This in turn leads to the activation of neural pathways projecting back to the paraventricular nucleus, medial preoptic area, ventral tegmental area, and/or ventral subiculum/amygdala, thereby inducing penile erection and yawning.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2017.09.004DOI Listing
November 2017

Dopamine, Noradrenaline and Differences in Sexual Behavior between Roman High and Low Avoidance Male Rats: A Microdialysis Study in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex.

Front Behav Neurosci 2017 7;11:108. Epub 2017 Jun 7.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, and Centre of Excellence for the Neurobiology of Addictions, University of CagliariCagliari, Italy.

Roman High- (RHA) and Low-Avoidance (RLA) outbred rats, which differ for a respectively rapid vs. poor acquisition of the active avoidance response in the shuttle-box, display differences in sexual activity when put in the presence of a sexually receptive female rat. Indeed RHA rats show higher levels of sexual motivation and copulatory performance than RLA rats, which persist also after repeated sexual activity. These differences have been correlated to a higher tone of the mesolimbic dopaminergic system of RHA rats vs. RLA rats, revealed by the higher increase of dopamine found in the dialysate obtained from the nucleus accumbens of RHA than RLA rats during sexual activity. This work shows that extracellular dopamine and noradrenaline (NA) also, increase in the dialysate from the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of male RHA and RLA rats put in the presence of an inaccessible female rat and more markedly during direct sexual interaction. Such increases in dopamine (and its main metabolite 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, DOPAC) and NA were found in both sexually naïve and experienced animals, but they were higher: (i) in RHA than in RLA rats; and (ii) in sexually experienced RHA and RLA rats than in their naïve counterparts. Finally, the differences in dopamine and NA in the mPFC occurred concomitantly to those in sexual activity, as RHA rats displayed higher levels of sexual motivation and copulatory performance than RLA rats in both the sexually naïve and experienced conditions. These results suggest that a higher dopaminergic tone also occurs in the mPFC, together with an increased noradrenergic tone, which may be involved in the different copulatory patterns found in RHA and RLA rats, as suggested for the mesolimbic dopaminergic system.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00108DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5461293PMC
June 2017

Profiles of VGF Peptides in the Rat Brain and Their Modulations after Phencyclidine Treatment.

Front Cell Neurosci 2017 2;11:158. Epub 2017 Jun 2.

Neuro-Endocrine-Fluorecence (NEF) Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of CagliariMonserrato, Italy.

From the VGF precursor protein originate several low molecular weight peptides, whose distribution in the brain and blood circulation is not entirely known. Among the VGF peptides, those containing the N-terminus portion were altered in the cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) and hypothalamus of schizophrenia patients. "Hence, we aimed to better investigate the involvement of the VGF peptides in schizophrenia by studying their localization in the brain regions relevant for the disease, and revealing their possible modulations in response to certain neuronal alterations occurring in schizophrenia". We produced antibodies against different VGF peptides encompassing the N-terminus, but also C-terminus-, TLQP-, GGGE- peptide sequences, and the so named NERP-3 and -4. These antibodies were used to carry out specific ELISA and immunolocalization studies while mass spectrometry (MS) analysis was also performed to recognize the intact brain VGF fragments. We used a schizophrenia rat model, in which alterations in the prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle response occurred after PCP treatment. In normal rats, all the VGF peptides studied were distributed in the brain areas examined including hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, accumbens and amygdaloid nuclei and also in the plasma. By liquid chromatography-high resolution mass, we identified different intact VGF peptide fragments, including those encompassing the N-terminus and the NERPs. PCP treatment caused behavioral changes that closely mimic schizophrenia, estimated by us as a disruption of PPI of the acoustic startle response. The PCP treatment also induced selective changes in the VGF peptide levels within certain brain areas. Indeed, an increase in VGF C-terminus and TLQP peptides was revealed in the prefrontal cortex ( < 0.01) where they were localized within parvoalbumin and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) containing neurons, respectively. Conversely, in the nucleus accumbens, PCP treatment produced a down-regulation in the levels of VGF C-terminus-, N-terminus- and GGGE- peptides ( < 0.01), expressed in GABAergic- (C-terminus/GGGE) and somatostatin- (N-terminus) neurons. These results confirm that VGF peptides are widely distributed in the brain and modulated in specific areas involved in schizophrenia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2017.00158DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5454051PMC
June 2017

Involvement of nigral oxytocin in locomotor activity: A behavioral, immunohistochemical and lesion study in male rats.

Horm Behav 2016 07 14;83:23-38. Epub 2016 May 14.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, Neuropsychobiology Laboratory, University of Cagliari, 09042 Monserrato (Cagliari), Italy. Electronic address:

Oxytocin is involved in the control of different behaviors, from sexual behavior and food consumption to empathy, social and affective behaviors. An imbalance of central oxytocinergic neurotransmission has been also associated with different mental pathologies, from depression, anxiety and anorexia/bulimia to schizophrenia, autism and drug dependence. This study shows that oxytocin may also play a role in the control of locomotor activity. Accordingly, intraperitoneal oxytocin (0.5-2000μg/kg) reduced locomotor activity of adult male rats. This effect was abolished by d(CH2)5Tyr(Me)(2)-Orn(8)-vasotocin, an oxytocin receptor antagonist, given into the lateral ventricles at the dose of 2μg/rat, which was ineffective on locomotor activity. Oxytocin (50-200ng/site) also reduced and d(CH2)5Tyr(Me)(2)-Orn(8)-vasotocin (2μg/site) increased locomotor activity when injected bilaterally into the substantia nigra, a key area in the control of locomotor activity. Conversely, the destruction of nigral neurons bearing oxytocin receptors by the recently characterized neurotoxin oxytocin-saporin injected into the substantia nigra, increased basal locomotor activity. Since oxytocin-saporin injected into the substantia nigra caused a marked reduction of neurons immunoreactive for tyrosine hydroxylase (e.g., nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons) and for vesicular glutamate transporters VGluT1, VGluT2 and VGluT3 (e.g., glutamatergic neurons), but not for glutamic acid decarboxylase (e.g., GABAergic neurons), together these findings suggest that oxytocin influences locomotor activity by acting on receptors localized presynaptically in nigral glutamatergic nerve terminals (which control the activity of nigral GABAergic efferent neurons projecting to brain stem nuclei controlling locomotor activity), rather than on receptors localized in the cell bodies/dendrites of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2016.05.012DOI Listing
July 2016

Role of dopamine D4 receptors in copulatory behavior: Studies with selective D4 agonists and antagonists in male rats.

Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2015 Oct 16;137:110-8. Epub 2015 Aug 16.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, Centre of Excellence for the Neurobiology of Addictions, University of Cagliari, Italy; Institute of Neuroscience, Cagliari Section, National Research Council, Cagliari, Italy.

Dopamine influences the anticipatory and consummatory phases of sexual behavior, by acting on receptors of the D2 family (D2, D3 and D4) and in particular of the D2 subtype, although evidence for a role of D4 receptors in erectile function and copulatory behavior is also available. In order to clarify such a role of D4 receptors, the effect of selective D4 receptor agonists and antagonists on copulatory behavior of sexually potent male rats in classic copulation tests with a receptive female, was compared with that of apomorphine and haloperidol, a classic dopamine receptor agonist and antagonist, respectively. PD-168,077 (0.05-0.2mg/kg) and ABT-724 (0.01-0.04mg/kg), two selective D4 receptor agonists, given subcutaneously, improved dose-dependently copulatory behavior as shown by the decrease of mount frequency and post ejaculatory interval induced by PD-168,077, and of mount frequency, ejaculation latency, post ejaculatory and inter intromission intervals induced by ABT-724, and by the increase of ejaculation frequency and copulatory efficacy induced by both drugs. Conversely, L-745,870 (1-5mg/kg), a selective D4 receptor antagonist, given intraperitoneally, impaired dose-dependently copulatory behavior, as shown by the increase in intromission and ejaculation latencies, mount frequency, post ejaculatory interval and the decrease in ejaculation frequency and copulatory efficacy induced by this drug. L-745,870 (5mg/kg) administered before PD-168,077 (0.2mg/kg) or ABT-724 (0.04mg/kg), also abolished completely the facilitatory effects of both PD-168,077 and ABT-724 on sexual behavior. These results confirm the involvement of D4 receptors in specific aspects of male rat copulatory behavior that overlap only partially with those influenced by apomorphine and haloperidol.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2015.08.012DOI Listing
October 2015

Involvement of dopamine in the differences in sexual behaviour between Roman high and low avoidance rats: an intracerebral microdialysis study.

Behav Brain Res 2015 Mar 10;281:177-86. Epub 2014 Dec 10.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, Centre of Excellence for the Neurobiology of Addictions, University of Cagliari, 09042 Monserrato, Cagliari, Italy; Institute of Neuroscience, National Research Council, Cagliari Section, 09042 Monserrato, Cagliari, Italy.

Outbred Roman high- (RHA) and low-avoidance (RLA) rats are selected for respectively rapid vs. poor acquisition of the active avoidance response and display different copulatory patterns when exposed to a sexually receptive female, with RHA rats showing more robust sexual motivation and better performance than RLA rats also after repeated sexual activity. Here we show that the distinct patterns of sexual behaviour of the Roman lines are correlated with differences in the activity of the dopaminergic mesolimbic system, which plays a key role in sexual motivation and copulatory performance. Thus, differential increases in the concentrations of dopamine and its main metabolite 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, occurred in dialysates obtained from the nucleus accumbens shell of naïve and sexually experienced Roman rats during the anticipatory and consummatory phases of sexual activity. These differences were particularly evident between sexually naïve RHA and RLA rats and tended to diminish but still persisted between sexually experienced rats, as did the differences in sexual behaviour. Analysis of the biochemical and behavioural findings showed that, while in RHA rats sexual experience caused a shift in the changes in both the dopaminergic activity and copulation towards the first period of the sexual test, in RLA rats sexual experience increased dopaminergic activity and copulation throughout the entire test. Therefore, this study adds experimental support to the view that the different sexual patterns of the Roman lines are due, at least in part, to a more robust functional tone of the mesolimbic dopaminergic system of RHA rats.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.12.009DOI Listing
March 2015

Dopamine is involved in the different patterns of copulatory behaviour of Roman high and low avoidance rats: studies with apomorphine and haloperidol.

Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2014 Sep 21;124:211-9. Epub 2014 Jun 21.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, and Centre of Excellence for the Neurobiology of Addictions, University of Cagliari, Monserrato, Cagliari, Italy.

Outbred Roman high- (RHA) and low-avoidance (RLA) rats, originally selected for rapid vs. poor acquisition of active avoidance in a shuttle box, show differential copulatory patterns when exposed to a receptive female. Indeed, in the first copulation test male RHA rats show more mounts, intromissions and ejaculations than RLA rats. Such differences do not disappear in subsequent copulation tests, with sexually experienced RHA rats always showing higher levels of sexual motivation and performance than their RLA counterparts. This study shows that the different copulatory patterns of sexually experienced RHA and RLA rats are differentially facilitated by apomorphine, a mixed D1/D2-like dopamine receptor agonist, and impaired by haloperidol, a D2-like dopamine receptor antagonist, given at doses which facilitate and impair, respectively, copulatory behaviour in Sprague Dawley rats used as an external reference strain. Accordingly, apomorphine-induced facilitation and haloperidol-induced impairment of copulatory behaviour were more robust in RLA than RHA rats, as indicated by their effects on several copulatory parameters including mount, intromission and ejaculation latencies, mount, intromission and ejaculation frequencies, post ejaculatory interval, inter-intromission interval and copulatory efficacy. Pretreatment with haloperidol also reduced the facilitatory effect of apomorphine more effectively in RLA than RHA rats. These results suggest that the different copulatory patterns of RHA and RLA rats are mainly due to a lower dopaminergic tone at level of the mesolimbic and incerto-hypothalamic dopaminergic systems of RLA vs. RHA rats, which play a key role in sexual behaviour.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2014.06.012DOI Listing
September 2014

Male Roman high and low avoidance rats show different patterns of copulatory behaviour: comparison with Sprague Dawley rats.

Physiol Behav 2014 Mar 25;127:27-36. Epub 2014 Jan 25.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology Section, University of Cagliari, 09042 Monserrato, Italy; Centre of Excellence for the Neurobiology of Addictions, University of Cagliari, 09042 Monserrato, Italy; Institute of Neuroscience, National Research Council, Cagliari Section, 09042 Monserrato, Italy.

Roman high- (RHA) and low-avoidance (RLA) rats, selectively bred for, respectively, rapid vs. extremely poor acquisition of avoidant behaviour in the shuttle-box, display different coping strategies when exposed to aversive environmental conditions: RLA rats are reactive copers and show hyperemotional behaviour characterized by hypomotility and freezing, while RHA rats show a proactive coping behaviour aimed at gaining control over the stressor. RHA rats also display a robust sensation/novelty seeking profile, high baseline levels of impulsivity, and marked preference for, and intake of, natural and drug rewards. This study shows that the Roman lines also differ in sexual behaviour, a main source of natural reward. Thus, male RHA rats engaged in copulatory activity with a receptive female showing more mounts, intromissions and ejaculations in the first copulation test as compared with their RLA counterparts and Sprague Dawley rats used as an external reference strain. Such differences decreased only partially in subsequent copulation tests, with RHA rats always showing higher levels of sexual motivation and performance than RLA rats. Accordingly, analysis of copulatory parameters of five copulation tests performed at 3-day intervals confirmed that the Roman lines display different patterns of copulatory activity that persist after stabilization of copulatory behaviour by sexual experience. Finally, the weight of the testes, epididymides and seminal vesicles increased to a similar extent in both Roman lines after sexual activity. These results are discussed in terms of the relative contribution of differences in brain neurotransmission (mainly dopamine) and neuroendocrine function to the different patterns of copulatory behaviour of the Roman lines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.01.002DOI Listing
March 2014

Dopamine agonist-induced penile erection and yawning: a comparative study in outbred Roman high- and low-avoidance rats.

Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2013 Aug 8;109:59-66. Epub 2013 May 8.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology Section, 09042 Monserrato, Cagliari, Italy.

The effects on penile erection and yawning of subcutaneous (SC) injections of the mixed dopamine D1/D2-like agonist apomorphine (0.02-0.2 mg/kg) were studied in outbred Roman high- (RHA) and low-avoidance (RLA) male rats, two lines selectively bred for their respectively rapid versus poor acquisition of the active avoidance response in the shuttle-box, and compared with the effects observed in male Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats. Apomorphine dose-response curves were bell-shaped in all rat lines/strains. Notably, more penile erections and yawns were recorded mainly in the ascending part of these curves (e.g., apomorphine 0.02-0.08 mg/kg) in both RLA and RHA rats compared to SD rats, with RLA rats showing the higher response (especially for yawning) with respect to RHA rats. Similar results were found with PD-168,077 (0.02-0.2 mg/kg SC), a D4 receptor agonist, which induced penile erection but not yawning. In all rat lines/strains, apomorphine responses were markedly reduced by the D2 antagonist L-741,626, but not by the D3 antagonist, SB277011A, whereas the D4 antagonists L-745,870 and FAUC213 elicited a partial, yet statistically significant, inhibitory effect. In contrast, the pro-erectile effect of PD-168,077 was completely abolished by L-745,870 and FAUC213, as expected. The present study confirms and extends previously reported differences in dopamine transmission between RLA and RHA rats and between the SD strain and the Roman lines. Moreover, it confirms previous studies supporting the view that dopamine receptors of the D2 subtype play a predominant role in the pro-yawning and pro-erectile effect of apomorphine, and that the selective stimulation of D4 receptors induces penile erection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2013.05.002DOI Listing
August 2013

Discovery of dopamine D₄ receptor antagonists with planar chirality.

Bioorg Med Chem 2013 Apr 5;21(7):1680-4. Epub 2013 Feb 5.

Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Emil Fischer Center, Friedrich Alexander University, Schuhstrasse 19, D-91052 Erlangen, Germany.

Employing the D4 selective phenylpiperazine 2 as a lead compound, planar chiral analogs with paracyclophane substructure were synthesized and evaluated for their ability to bind and activate dopamine receptors. The study revealed that the introduction of a [2.2]paracyclophane moiety is tolerated by dopamine receptors of the D2 family. Subtype selectivity for D4 and ligand efficacy depend on the absolute configuration of the test compounds. Whereas the achiral single-layered lead 2 and the double-layered paracyclophane (R)-3 showed partial agonist properties, the enantiomer (S)-3 behaved as a neutral antagonist.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bmc.2013.01.065DOI Listing
April 2013

Clavulanic acid induces penile erection and yawning in male rats: comparison with apomorphine.

Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2013 Feb 9;103(4):750-5. Epub 2012 Dec 9.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology Section, University of Cagliari, Italy.

The beta-lactamase inhibitor clavulanic acid induced penile erection and yawning in a dose dependent manner when given intraperitoneally (IP, 0.05-5mg/kg), perorally (OS, 0.1-5mg/kg) and intracereboventricularly (ICV, 0.01-5 μg/rat) to male rats. The effect resembles that of the dopamine receptor agonist apomorphine given subcutaneously (SC) (0.02-0.25mg/kg), although the responses of the latter followed a U inverted dose-response curve, disappearing at doses higher than 0.1mg/kg. Clavulanic acid responses were reduced by about 55% by haloperidol, a dopamine D2 receptor antagonist (0.1mg/kg IP), and by d(CH(2))(5)Tyr(Me)(2)-Orn(8)-vasotocin, an oxytocin receptor antagonist (2 μg/rat ICV), both given 15 min before clavulanic acid. A higher reduction of clavulanic acid responses (more than 80%) was also found with morphine, an opioid receptor agonist (5mg/kg IP), and with mianserin, a serotonin 5HT(2c) receptor antagonist (0.2mg/kg SC). In contrast, no reduction was found with naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist (1mg/kg IP). The ability of haloperidol, d(CH(2))(5)Tyr(Me)(2)-Orn(8)-vasotocin and morphine to reduce clavulanic acid induced penile erection and yawning suggests that clavulanic acid induces these responses, at least in part, by increasing central dopaminergic neurotransmission. Dopamine in turn activates oxytocinergic neurotransmission and centrally released oxytocin induces penile erection and yawning. However, since both penile erection and yawning episodes were reduced not only by the blockade of central dopamine and oxytocin receptors and by the stimulation of opioid receptors, which inhibits oxytocinergic neurotransmission, but also by mianserin, an increase of central serotonin neurotransmission is also likely to participate in these clavulanic acid responses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2012.12.001DOI Listing
February 2013

Novel azulene derivatives for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Bioorg Med Chem Lett 2012 Dec 6;22(23):7151-4. Epub 2012 Oct 6.

Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy, Emil Fischer Center, Friedrich Alexander University, Schuhstrasse 19, D-91052 Erlangen, Germany.

Based on the dopamine D(4) receptor partial agonist FAUC 3019, a series of azulenylmethylpiperazines was synthesized and affinities for the monoaminergic GPCRs including dopamine, serotonin, histamine and α-adrenergic receptor subtypes were determined. Ligand efficacies of the most promising test compounds revealed the N,N-dimethylaminomethyl substituted azulene 11 to be the most potent D(4) partial agonist (EC(50)=0.41 nM). This candidate was investigated for its ability to promote penile erection. Applying an in vivo animal model, test compound 11 turned out to stimulate penile erection in male rats with superior potency in low concentrations when compared to apomorphine.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bmcl.2012.09.064DOI Listing
December 2012