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Papers of the Week

Papers: 22 Jul 2023 - 28 Jul 2023

Basic Science, Psychology

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology


2023 Jul 21

Mol Psychiatry


PPARα and PPARγ are expressed in midbrain dopamine neurons and modulate dopamine- and cannabinoid-mediated behavior in mice.


Hempel B, Crissman M, Pari S, Klein B, Bi GH, Alton H, Xi ZX


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are a family of nuclear receptors that regulate gene expression. Δ-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-THC) is a PPARγ agonist and some endocannabinoids are natural activators of PPARα and PPARγ. However, little is known regarding their cellular distributions in the brain and functional roles in cannabinoid action. Here, we first used RNAscope in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry assays to examine the cellular distributions of PPARα and PPARγ expression in the mouse brain. We found that PPARα and PPARγ are expressed in ~70% of midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons. In the amygdala, PPARα is expressed in ~60% of glutamatergic neurons, while PPARγ is expressed in ~60%  of GABA neurons. However, no PPARα/γ signal was detected in GABA neurons in the nucleus accumbens. We then used a series of behavioral assays to determine the functional roles of PPARα/γ in the CNS effects of Δ-THC. We found that optogenetic stimulation of midbrain DA neurons was rewarding as assessed by optical intracranial self-stimulation (oICSS) in DAT-cre mice. Δ-THC and a PPARγ (but not PPARα) agonist dose-dependently inhibited oICSS. Pretreatment with PPARα or PPARγ antagonists attenuated the Δ-THC-induced reduction in oICSS and Δ-THC-induced anxiogenic effects. In addition, a PPARγ agonist increased, while PPARα or PPARγ antagonists decreased open-field locomotion. Pretreatment with PPARα or PPARγ antagonists potentiated Δ-THC-induced hypoactivity and catalepsy but failed to alter Δ-THC-induced analgesia, hypothermia and immobility. These findings provide the first anatomical and functional evidence supporting an important role of PPARα/γ in DA-dependent behavior and cannabinoid action.