Inhibition of hippocampal plasticity in rats performing contrafreeloading for water under repeated administrations of pramipexole

Chiara Schepisi, Annabella Pignataro, Salvatore Simone Doronzio, Sonia Piccinin, Caterina Ferraina, Silvia Di Prisco, Marco Feligioni, Anna Pittaluga, Nicola Biagio Mercuri, Martine Ammassari-Teule, Robert Nisticò, Paolo Nencini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: Compulsive symptoms develop in patients exposed to pramipexole (PPX), a dopaminergic agonist with high selectivity for the D3 receptor. Consistently, we demonstrated that PPX produces an exaggerated increase in contrafreeloading (CFL) for water, a repetitive and highly inflexible behavior that models core aspects of compulsive disorders. Objectives: Given the role of the hippocampus in behavioral flexibility, motivational control, and visuospatial working memory, we investigated the role of hippocampus in the expression of PPX-induced CFL. To this aim, rats were subjected to CFL under chronic PPX, and then examined for the electrophysiological, structural, and molecular properties of their hippocampus. Methods: We measured long-term potentiation (LTP) at CA1 Schaffer collaterals, dendritic spine density in CA1 pyramidal neurons, and then glutamate release and expression of pre and postsynaptic proteins in hippocampal synaptosomes. The effects of PPX on hippocampal-dependent working memory were assessed through the novel object recognition (NOR) test. Results: We found that PPX-treated rats showing CFL exhibited a significant decrease in hippocampal LTP and failed to exhibit the expected increase in hippocampal spine density. Glutamate release and PSD-95 expression were decreased, while pSYN expression was increased in hippocampal synaptosomes of PPX-treated rats showing CFL. Despite a general impairment of hippocampal synaptic function, working memory was unaffected by PPX treatment. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that chronic PPX affects synaptic function in the hippocampus, an area that is critically involved in the expression of flexible, goal-centered behaviors. We suggest that the hippocampus is a promising target in the pharmacotherapy of compulsive disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-737
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 17 2015


  • Contrafreeloading
  • D3 receptor
  • Hippocampus
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Pramipexole

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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