A novel mechanism by which dopamine alters chromatin in neurons
Dopamine orchestrates motor behaviour and reward-driven learning. Perturbations of dopamine signalling have been implicated in several neurological and psychiatric disorders, and in drug addiction. The actions of dopamine are mediated in part by the regulation of gene expression in the striatum, through mechanisms that are not fully understood. Here we show that drugs of abuse, as well as food reinforcement learning, promote the nuclear accumulation of 32-kDa dopamine-regulated and cyclic-AMP-regulated phosphoprotein (DARPP-32). This accumulation is mediated through a signalling cascade involving dopamine D1 receptors, cAMP-dependent activation of protein phosphatase-2A, dephosphorylation of DARPP-32 at Ser 97 and inhibition of its nuclear export. The nuclear accumulation of DARPP-32, a potent inhibitor of protein phosphatase-1, increases the phosphorylation of histone H3, an important component of nucleosomal response. Mutation of Ser 97 profoundly alters behavioural effects of drugs of abuse and decreases motivation for food, underlining the functional importance of this signalling cascade.