Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2023 Oct 17:110883. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2023.110883. Online ahead of print.
The selection and optimization of appropriate adaptive responses depends on interoceptive and exteroceptive stimuli as well as on the animal’s ability to switch from one behavioral strategy to another. Although growing evidence indicate that dopamine D2R-mediated signaling events ensure the selection of the appropriate strategy for each specific situation, the underlying neural circuits through they mediate these effects are poorly characterized. Here, we investigated the role of D2R signaling in a mesolimbic neuronal subpopulation expressing the Wolfram syndrome 1 (Wfs1) gene. This subpopulation is located within the nucleus accumbens, the central amygdala, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, and the tail of the striatum, all brain regions critical for the regulation of emotions and motivated behaviors. Using a mouse model carrying a temporally controlled deletion of D2R in WFS1-neurons, we demonstrate that intact D2R signaling in this neuronal population is necessary to regulate homeostasis-dependent food-seeking behaviors in both male and female mice. In addition, we found that reduced D2R signaling in WFS1-neurons impaired active avoidance learning and innate escape responses. Collectively, these findings identify a yet undocumented role for D2R signaling in WFS1-neurons as a novel effector through which dopamine optimizes appetitive behaviors and regulates defensive behaviors.