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Researchers have discovered the mechanics of how dopamine transports into and out of brain cells, a finding that could someday lead to more effective treatment of drug addictions and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

The findings are significant because dopamine is involved in many brain-related functions. Too little dopamine can lead to Parkinson’s disease, a brain disorder that causes shaking and problems with movement and coordination. Abnormally high concentrations of dopamine are linked to schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. Cocaine and methamphetamine affect the brain by blocking the normal transport of dopamine back into neurons.

Knowing how a particular protein called dopamine transporter controls dopamine movement in and out of neurons is crucial to further understanding dopamine-related disorders.

The researchers’ findings offer a broader understanding of how dopamine moves through cell membranes. Using mouse and human-derived dopamine neurons, researchers found that dopamine movement is affected by changes in electrical properties of the neurons. That, in turn, changes the way dopamine transporters function.

The researchers reported their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: University of Florida