Embryonic Methamphetamine Exposure Inhibits Methamphetamine Cue Conditioning and Reduces Dopamine Concentrations in Adult N2 Caenorhabditis elegans

Simon N. Katner, Bethany S. Neal-Beliveau, Eric A. Engleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Methamphetamine (MAP) addiction is substantially prevalent in today's society, resulting in thousands of deaths and costing billions of dollars annually. Despite the potential deleterious consequences, few studies have examined the long-term effects of embryonic MAP exposure. Using the invertebrate nematode Caenorhabditis elegans allows for a controlled analysis of behavioral and neurochemical changes due to early developmental drug exposure. The objective of the current study was to determine the long-term behavioral and neurochemical effects of embryonic exposure to MAP in C. elegans. In addition, we sought to improve our conditioning and testing procedures by utilizing liquid filtration, as opposed to agar, and smaller, 6-well testing plates to increase throughput. Wild-type N2 C. elegans were embryonically exposed to 50 μM MAP. Using classical conditioning, adult-stage C. elegans were conditioned to MAP (17 and 500 μM) in the presence of either sodium ions (Na+) or chloride ions (Cl-) as conditioned stimuli (CS+/CS-). Following conditioning, a preference test was performed by placing worms in 6-well test plates spotted with the CS+ and CS- at opposite ends of each well. A preference index was determined by counting the number of worms in the CS+ target zone divided by the total number of worms in the CS+ and CS- target zones. A food conditioning experiment was also performed in order to determine whether embryonic MAP exposure affected food conditioning behavior. For the neurochemical experiments, adult worms that were embryonically exposed to MAP were analyzed for dopamine (DA) content using high-performance liquid chromatography. The liquid filtration conditioning procedure employed here in combination with the use of 6-well test plates significantly decreased the time required to perform these experiments and ultimately increased throughput. The MAP conditioning data found that pairing an ion with MAP at 17 or 500 μM significantly increased the preference for that ion (CS+) in worms that were not pre-exposed to MAP. However, worms embryonically exposed to MAP did not exhibit significant drug cue conditioning. The inability of MAP-exposed worms to condition to MAP was not associated with deficits in food conditioning, as MAP-exposed worms exhibited a significant cue preference associated with food. Furthermore, our results found that embryonic MAP exposure reduced DA levels in adult C. elegans, which could be a key mechanism contributing to the long-term effects of embryonic MAP exposure. It is possible that embryonic MAP exposure may be impairing the ability of C. elegans to learn associations between MAP and the CS+ or inhibiting the reinforcing properties of MAP. However, our food conditioning data suggest that MAP-exposed animals can form associations between cues and food. The depletion of DA levels during embryonic exposure to MAP could be responsible for driving either of these processes during adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-149
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Behavior
  • Classical conditioning
  • Drug abuse
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Methamphetamine
  • Monoamine
  • Nematode
  • Neurotoxin
  • Prenatal exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Embryonic Methamphetamine Exposure Inhibits Methamphetamine Cue Conditioning and Reduces Dopamine Concentrations in Adult N2 Caenorhabditis elegans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this