Methamphetamine (METH) competes with dopamine uptake, increases dopamine efflux via the dopamine transporter, and affects the excitability of dopamine neurons. Here, we identified an unexpected property of METH on dopamine neuron firing activity. METH transiently increased the spontaneous spike activity of dopamine neurons followed by a progressive reduction of the spontaneous spike activity. METH broadened the action potentials, increased coefficients of variation of the interspike interval, and decreased the amplitude of afterhyperpolarization, which are consistent with changes in the activity of Ca2+-activated potassium (BK) channels. We found that METH decreased the activity of BK channels by stimulating BK-α subunit trafficking. Thus, METH modulation of dopamine neurotransmission and resulting behavioral responses is, in part, due to METH regulation of BK channel activity.
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KEYWORDS: BK channels; Ca-activated K channels; amphetamines; dopamine; dopamine neurons; dopamine transporter