Dnmt3a2/Dnmt3L Overexpression in the Dopaminergic System of Mice Increases Exercise Behavior through Signaling Changes in the Hypothalamus

Dnmt3a2, a de novo DNA methyltransferase, is induced by neuronal activity and participates in long-term memory formation with the increased expression of synaptic plasticity genes. We wanted to determine if Dnmt3a2 with its partner Dnmt3L may influence motor behavior via the dopaminergic system. To this end, we generated a mouse line, Dnmt3a2/3LDat/wt, with dopamine transporter (DAT) promotor driven Dnmt3a2/3L overexpression. The mice were studied with behavioral paradigms (e.g., cylinder test, open field, and treadmill), brain slice patch clamp recordings, ex vivo metabolite analysis, and in vivo positron emission tomography (PET) using the dopaminergic tracer 6-[18F]FMT. The results showed that spontaneous activity and exercise performance were enhanced in Dnmt3a2/3LDat/wt mice compared to Dnmt3a2/3Lwt/wt controls. Dopaminergic substantia nigra pars compacta neurons of Dnmt3a2/3LDat/wt animals displayed a higher fire frequency and excitability. However, dopamine concentration was not increased in the striatum, and dopamine metabolite concentration was even significantly decreased. Striatal 6-[18F]FMT uptake, reflecting aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase activity, was the same in Dnmt3a2/3LDat/wt mice and controls. [18F]FDG PET showed that hypothalamic metabolic activity was tightly linked to motor behavior in Dnmt3a2/3LDat/wt mice. Furthermore, dopamine biosynthesis and motor-related metabolic activity were correlated in the hypothalamus. Our findings suggest that Dnmt3a2/3L, when overexpressed in dopaminergic neurons, modulates motor performance via activation of the nigrostriatal pathway. This does not involve increased dopamine synthesis.


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