By Danielle Houghton
Assistant professor of neuroscience at UF, Jeremy McIntyre, Ph. D., and his team find neuron‐specific cilia loss differentially alters locomotor responses to amphetamine, a central nervous stimulant, in mice.
Important receptors for neuromodulators are known to be enriched in the primary cilia of neurons. How these cilia regulate neuronal function and behavior is still in question. Finding these answers in regard to these behavioral responses to amphetamine was the objective of this study conducted in McIntyre’s lab, which is one of the first to investigate behavioral effects of cilia loss from specific populations of neurons.
The way the brain responds to drugs of abuse are complex, with a number of neuromodulatory peptides impacting neural responses.
To test the consequences of cilia loss on amphetamine‐induced locomotor activity, the research team selectively removed cilia from dopaminergic neurons in mice. “Results indicate[d] that cilia play neuron‐specific roles in both acute and neuroplastic responses to psychostimulant drugs of abuse.”
“This research has implications for human genetic diseases known as ciliopathies,” explains McIntyre. “These diseases can have significant impacts on cognitive function, sensory abilities and motivated/feeding behaviors.” McIntyre is forward-looking in his research, adding, “By understanding some of the cell-types and behaviors that are associated with cilia loss, we can hopefully develop methods to reduce some of the consequences of these disorders.”
This research is useful in our future understanding of substance use disorders, a significant health issue in the United States. The contributing neural mechanisms to these disorders “remain poorly understood.” This study revealed primary cilia’s contribution to neural signaling that influence behavioral responses to amphetamine.
McIntyre explains: “There are many things that we still don’t know about the cell biology of neurons, or things that we take for granted. Our research here suggests that cilia can play an important role in how neurons function in the brain. This sets a stage for future work to investigate why certain receptors are highly abundant on these organelles.”
McIntyre’s lab largely focuses on cellular neurobiology and neuropeptides that affect the processing of sensory and reward information. This research brings us one step closer to understanding these processes clearly.