The striatum is critical for cocaine-induced locomotor responses. Although the role of D1 receptor-expressing neurons is established, underlying molecular pathways are not fully understood. We studied the role of Pyk2, a non-receptor, calcium-dependent protein-tyrosine kinase. The locomotor coordination and basal activity of Pyk2 knock-out mice were not altered and major striatal protein markers were normal. Cocaine injection increased Pyk2 tyrosine phosphorylation in mouse striatum. Pyk2-deficient mice displayed decreased locomotor response to acute cocaine injection. In contrast, locomotor sensitization and conditioned place preference were normal. Cocaine-activated ERK phosphorylation, a signaling pathway essential for these late responses, was unaltered. Conditional deletion of Pyk2 in the nucleus accumbens or in D1 neurons reproduced decreased locomotor response to cocaine, whereas deletion of Pyk2 in the dorsal striatum or in A2A receptor-expressing neurons did not. In mice lacking Pyk2 in D1-neurons locomotor response to D1 agonist SKF-81297, but not to an anticholinergic drug, was blunted. Our results identify Pyk2 as a regulator of acute locomotor responses to psychostimulants. They highlight the role of tyrosine phosphorylation pathways in striatal neurons and suggest that changes in Pyk2 expression or activation may alter specific responses to drugs of abuse, or possibly other behavioral responses linked to dopamine action.
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