Among dopamine receptors, the expression and function of the D3 receptor subtype is not well understood. The receptor has the highest affinity for dopamine and many drugs that target dopamine receptors. In this paper, we examined, at the single cell level, the characteristics of D3 receptor-expressing cells isolated from different brain regions of male and female mice that were either 35 or 70 days old. The brain regions included nucleus accumbens, Islands of Calleja, olfactory tubercle, retrosplenial cortex, dorsal subiculum, mammillary body, amygdala and septum. The expression analysis was done in the drd3-enhanced green fluorescent protein transgenic mice that report the endogenous expression of D3 receptor mRNA. Using single cell reverse transcriptase PCR, we determined if the D3 receptor-expressing fluorescent cells in these mice were neurons or glia and if they were glutamatergic, GABAergic or catecholaminergic. Next, we determined if the fluorescent cells co-expressed the four other dopamine receptor subtypes, adenylate cyclase V (ACV) isoform, and three different isoforms of G protein-coupled inward rectifier potassium (GIRK) channels. The results suggest that D3 receptor is expressed in neurons, with region-specific expression in glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons. The D3 receptor primarily coexpressed with D1 and D2 dopamine receptors with regional, sex and age-dependent differences in the coexpression pattern. The percentage of cells co-expressing D3 receptor and ACV or GIRK channels varied significantly by brain region, sex and age. The molecular characterization of D3 receptor-expressing cells in mouse brain reported here will facilitate the characterization of D3 receptor function in physiology and pathophysiology.
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