Dopamine plays a key role in food rewards and sweet-taste stimulation. We examined the basis for behavioral responses to sweet taste in dopamine D3 receptor-deficient (D3−/−) mice by determining whether the absence of D3 receptors affects the sensitivity to dilute sucrose solutions. In experiment 1, we measured the intensity generalization threshold of conditioned taste aversion (CTA) to a 0.2 M sucrose solution. Results showed that the generalization thresholds were 0.025–0.05 M in D3−/− mice and 0.0025–0.005 M in wild-type (WT) mice. In experiment 2, we found that D3−/− and WT mice had similar capabilities to form and extinguish CTAs. Since the intensity generalization threshold is mainly due to a combination of sweet-taste sensitivity and the robust nature of CTA formation, the results showed that taste sensitivity to sucrose in D3−/− mice was lower than that in WT mice. In experiment 3, to test whether the peripheral sensory signaling may also be affected by the disruption of the dopamine D3 receptors, the mRNA expression levels of sweet-taste-related proteins in taste buds of D3−/− mice were determined. The T1R1 and BDNF mRNA expression levels in D3−/− mice were higher than the controls, whereas T1R2, T1R3, α-gustducin, and TRPM5 mRNA were similar. These findings suggest that disruption of dopamine D3 receptor-mediated signaling decreases the sweet-taste sensitivity and alters the mRNA expression levels of some taste-related molecules.

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