Toll-like receptor 4 deficiency alters nucleus accumbens synaptic physiology and drug reward behavior [Neuroscience]
Behavioral manifestations of drug-seeking behavior are causally linked to alterations of synaptic strength onto nucleus accumbens (NAc) medium spiny neurons (MSN). Although neuron-driven changes in physiology and behavior are well characterized, there is a lack of knowledge of the role of the immune system in mediating such effects. Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is a pattern recognition molecule of the innate immune system, and evidence suggests that it modulates drug-related behavior. Using TLR4 knockout (TLR4.KO) mice, we show that TLR4 plays a role in NAc synaptic physiology and behavior. In addition to differences in the pharmacological profile of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDAR) in the NAc core, TLR4.KO animals exhibit a deficit in low-frequency stimulation-induced NMDAR-dependent long-term depression (LTD). Interestingly, the synaptic difference is region specific as no differences were found in excitatory synaptic properties in the NAc shell. Consistent with altered NAc LTD, TLR4.KO animals exhibit an attenuation in drug reward learning. Finally, we show that TLR4 in the NAc core is primarily expressed on microglia. These results suggest that TLR4 influences NAc MSN synaptic physiology and drug reward learning and behavior.
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