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    Dopamine D2 receptors (D2Rs) are densely expressed in the striatum and have been linked to neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia1,2. High-affinity binding of dopamine suggests that D2Rs detect transient reductions in dopamine concentration (the dopamine dip) during punishment learning3-5. However, the nature and cellular basis of D2R-dependent behaviour are unclear. Here we show that tone reward conditioning induces marked stimulus generalization in a manner that depends on dopamine D1 receptors (D1Rs) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) of mice, and that discrimination learning refines the conditioning using a dopamine dip. In NAc slices, a narrow dopamine dip (as short as 0.4 s) was detected by D2Rs to disinhibit adenosine A2A receptor (A2AR)-mediated enlargement of dendritic spines in D2R-expressing spiny projection neurons (D2-SPNs). Plasticity-related signalling by Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II and A2ARs in the NAc was required for discrimination learning. By contrast, extinction learning did not involve dopamine dips or D2-SPNs. Treatment with methamphetamine, which dysregulates dopamine signalling, impaired discrimination learning and spine enlargement, and these impairments were reversed by a D2R antagonist. Our data show that D2Rs refine the generalized reward learning mediated by D1Rs.


    Yusuke Iino, Takeshi Sawada, Kenji Yamaguchi, Mio Tajiri, Shin Ishii, Haruo Kasai, Sho Yagishita. Dopamine D2 receptors in discrimination learning and spine enlargement. Nature. 2020 Mar;579(7800):555-560

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    PMID: 32214250

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