About the article

The mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system plays a critical role in behavioral activation and effort-based decision-making. DA depletion produces anergia (shifts to low effort options) in animals tested on effort-based decision-making tasks. Caffeine, the most consumed stimulant in the world, acts as an adenosine A1/A2A receptor antagonist, and in striatal areas DA D1 and D2 receptors are co-localized with adenosine A1 and A2A receptors respectively. In the present work, we evaluated the effect of caffeine on anergia induced by the VMAT-2 inhibitor tetrabenazine (TBZ), which depletes DA.

Anergia was evaluated in a three-chamber T-maze task in which animals can chose between running on a wheel (RW) vs. sedentary activities such as consuming sucrose or sniffing a neutral odor. TBZ-caffeine interactions in ventral striatum were evaluated using DARPP-32 phosphorylation patterns as an intracellular marker of DA-adenosine receptor interaction. In the T-maze, control mice spent more time running and much less consuming sucrose or sniffing. TBZ (4.0 mg/kg) reduced ventral striatal DA tissue levels as measured by HPLC, and also shifted preferences in the T-maze, reducing selection of the reinforcer that involved vigorous activity (RW), but increasing consumption of a reinforcer that required little effort (sucrose), at doses that had no effect on independent measures of appetite or locomotion in a RW.

Caffeine at doses that had no effect on their own reversed the effects of TBZ on T-maze performance, and also suppressed TBZ-induced pDARPP-32(Thr34) expression as measured by western blot, suggesting a role for D2-A2A interactions. These results support the idea that DA depletion produces anergia, but does not affect the primary motivational effects of sucrose. Caffeine, possibly by acting on A2A receptors in ventral striatum, reversed the DA depletion effects. It is possible that caffeine, like selective adenosine A2A antagonists, could have some therapeutic benefit for treating effort-related symptoms.