Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program



Neurobiology; Melikian Lab

First Thesis Advisor

Haley Melikian


Dopamine, Dopamine Transporter, DAT, GPCR, Gq, mGluR5, Rit2, Parkinson's disease, Motor learning, coordination


Dopamine (DA) is a modulatory neurotransmitter required for movement, learning, and reward. Several neuropsychiatric disorders exhibit DAergic dysfunction, including Parkinson’s disease (PD). The presynaptic DA transporter (DAT) constrains DAergic signaling via DA reuptake. Acute PKC activation drives DAT endocytosis, however, endogenous receptor-mediated DAT trafficking in striatal terminals remains ill-defined. Here, I present data supporting biphasic Gq-receptor-mediated DAT trafficking in striatum. Gq-receptor activation drives initial DAT insertion, which requires DA release, DAergic DRD2auto activation, and intact retromer. Subsequent DAT retrieval requires PKC and the neuronal GTPase Rit2. Furthermore, I demonstrate that the endogenous Gq-coupled metabotropic glutamate receptor, mGluR5, expressed on DAergic neurons exerts biphasic DAT regulation. DAergic mGluR5 silencing revealed that mGluR5 is required for motor learning and coordination. DAergic mGluR5 cKO motor deficits were rescued by DAT inhibition, suggesting mGluR5-mediated DAT trafficking is required for these behaviors. Apart from its requisite role in DAT trafficking, Rit2 is a PD associated risk allele. We previously demonstrated that Rit2 is required for psychostimulant response and generalized anxiety, but not basal locomotion. However, Rit2’s roles in more complex motor behaviors and PD pathology remain unknown. DAergic Rit2 silencing revealed that Rit2 is required for male motor learning and prolonged Rit2 suppression leads to progressive manifestation of PD biomarkers, coordination deficits, and decreased DAergic tone. Motor learning deficits were rescued by boosting DA availability, echoing Rit2-mediated hypodopaminergia. Together these results identify receptor-mediated DAT trafficking mechanisms in DA terminals, demonstrate that DAT surface dynamics are required for motor function, and implicate DAergic Rit2 loss in progressive PD-like phenotypes.



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