GIRK currents in VTA dopamine neurons control the sensitivity of mice to cocaine-induced locomotor sensitization

Robert A. Rifkin, Deborah Huyghe, Xiaofan Li, Manasa Parakala, Erin Aisenberg, Stephen J. Moss, Paul A. Slesinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


GABABR-dependent activation of G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium channels (GIRK or KIR3) provides a well-known source of inhibition in the brain, but the details on how this important inhibitory pathway affects neural circuits are lacking. We used sorting nexin 27 (SNX27), an endosomal adaptor protein that associates with GIRK2c and GIRK3 subunits, to probe the role of GIRK channels in reward circuits. A conditional knockout of SNX27 in both substantia nigra pars compacta and ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons leads to markedly smaller GABABR- and dopamine D2R-activated GIRK currents, as well as to suprasensitivity to cocaine-induced locomotor sensitization. Expression of the SNX27-insensitive GIRK2a subunit in SNX27- deficient VTA dopamine neurons restored GIRK currents and GABABR-dependent inhibition of spike firing, while also resetting the mouse's sensitivity to cocaine-dependent sensitization. These results establish a link between slow inhibition mediated by GIRK channels in VTA dopamine neurons and cocaine addiction, revealing a therapeutic target for treating addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E9479-E9488
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number40
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2018


  • Addiction
  • Dopamine
  • Potassium channel
  • Psychostimulants
  • Ventral tegmental area


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