Schalbetter, S. M., Mueller, F. S., Scarborough, J. et al. 2021. Oral application of clozapine-N-oxide using the micropipette-guided drug administration (MDA) method in mouse DREADD systems. Lab Animal 50, 69-75.

The designer receptor exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADD) system is one of the most widely used chemogenetic techniques to modulate the activity of cell populations in the brains of behaving animals. DREADDs are activated by acute or chronic administration of their ligand, clozapine-N-oxide (CNO). There is, however, a current lack of a non-invasive CNO administration technique that can control for drug timing and dosing without inducing substantial distress for the animals. Here, we evaluated whether the recently developed micropipette-guided drug administration (MDA) method, which has been used as a non-invasive and minimally stressful alternative to oral gavages, may be applied to administer CNO orally to activate DREADDs in a dosing- and timing-controlled manner. Unlike standard intraperitoneal injections, administration of vehicle substances via MDA did not elevate plasma levels of the major stress hormone, corticosterone, and did not attenuate exploratory activity in the open field test. At the same time, however, administration of CNO via MDA or intraperitoneally was equally efficient in activating hM3DGq-expressing neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex, as evident by time-dependent increases in mRNA levels of neuronal immediate early genes (cFos, Arc and Zif268) and cFos-immunoreactive neurons. Compared to vehicle given via MDA, oral administration of CNO via MDA was also found to potently increase locomotor activity in mice that express hM3DGq in prefrontal neurons. Taken together, our study confirms the effectiveness of CNO given orally via MDA and provides a novel method for non-stressful, yet well controllable CNO treatments in mouse DREADD systems.

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