Age-dependent effects of protein restriction on dopamine release
Despite the essential role of protein intake for health and development, very little is known about the impact of protein restriction on neurobiological functions, especially at different stages of the lifespan. The dopamine system is a central actor in the integration of food-related processes and is influenced by physiological state and food-related signals. Moreover, it is highly sensitive to dietary effects during early life periods such as adolescence due to its late maturation. In the present study, we investigated the impact of protein restriction either during adolescence or adulthood on the function of the mesolimbic (nucleus accumbens) and nigrostriatal (dorsal striatum) dopamine pathways using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry in rat brain slices. In the nucleus accumbens, protein restriction in adults increased dopamine release in response to low and high frequency trains of stimulation (1–20 Hz). By contrast, protein restriction during adolescence decreased nucleus accumbens dopamine release. In the dorsal striatum, protein restriction at adulthood has no impact on dopamine release but the same diet during adolescence induced a frequency-dependent increase in stimulated dopamine release. Taken together, our results highlight the sensitivity of the different dopamine pathways to the effect of protein restriction, as well as their vulnerability to deleterious diet effects at different life stages.