Studies on cultured cells have shown that agonists induce several types of G protein-coupled receptors to undergo internalization. We have investigated this phenomenon in rat striatum, using substance P (SP)-induced internalization of the SP receptor (SPR) as our model system. Within 1 min of a unilateral striatal injection of SP in the anesthetized rat, nearly 60% of the SPR-immunoreactive neurons within the injection zone display massive internalization of the SPR--i.e., 20-200 SPR+ endosomes per cell body. Within the dendrites the SPR undergoes a striking translocation from the plasma membrane to endosomes, and these dendrites also undergo a morphological reorganization, changing from a structure of rather uniform diameter to one characterized by large, swollen varicosities connected by thin fibers. In both cell bodies and dendrites the number of SPR+ endosomes returns to baseline within 60 min of SP injection. The number of neurons displaying substantial endosomal SPR internalization is dependent on the concentration of injected SP, and the SP-induced SPR internalization is inhibited by the nonpeptide neurokinin 1 receptor antagonist RP-67,580. These data demonstrate that in the central nervous system in vivo, SP induces a rapid and widespread SPR internalization in the cell bodies and dendrites and a structural reorganization of the dendrites. These results suggest that many of the observations that have been made on the internalization and recycling of G protein-coupled receptors in in vitro transfected cell systems are applicable to similar events that occur in the mammalian central nervous system in vivo
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