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J Neurosci. 2001 Aug 15;21(16):6338-47.

Preferential increases in nucleus accumbens dopamine after systemic cocaine administration are caused by unique characteristics of dopamine neurotransmission.

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  • 1Cellular and Integrative Physiology Section, Department of Biological Sciences, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois 61790-4120, USA.


In vivo voltammetry was used to investigate the preferential increase of extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens relative to the caudate-putamen after systemic cocaine administration. In the first part of this study, cocaine (40 mg/kg, i.p.) was compared with two other blockers of dopamine uptake, nomifensine (10 mg/kg, i.p.) and 3beta-(p-chlorophenyl)tropan-2beta-carboxylic acid p-isothiocyanatophenylmethyl ester hydrochloride (RTI-76; 100 nmol, i.c.v.), to assess whether the inhibitory mechanism of cocaine differed in the two regions. All three drugs robustly increased electrically evoked levels of dopamine, and cocaine elevated dopamine signals to a greater extent in the nucleus accumbens. However, kinetic analysis of the evoked dopamine signals indicated that cocaine and nomifensine increased the K(m) for dopamine uptake whereas the dominant effect of RTI-76 was a decrease in V(max). Under the present in vivo conditions, therefore, cocaine is a competitive inhibitor of dopamine uptake in both the nucleus accumbens and caudate-putamen. Whether the preferential effect of cocaine was mediated by regional differences in the presynaptic control of extracellular DA that are described by rates for DA uptake and release was examined next by a correlation analysis. The lower rates for dopamine release and uptake measured in the nucleus accumbens were found to underlie the preferential increase in extracellular dopamine after cocaine. This relationship explains the paradox that cocaine more effectively increases accumbal dopamine despite identical effects on the dopamine transporter in the two regions. The mechanism proposed for the preferential actions of cocaine may also mediate the differential effects of psychostimulant in extrastriatal regions and other uptake inhibitors in the striatum.

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