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Synapse. 2009 Jan;63(1):42-53. doi: 10.1002/syn.20577.

Cocaine activates Homer1 immediate early gene transcription in the mesocorticolimbic circuit: differential regulation by dopamine and glutamate signaling.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconson 53233, USA. behnam.ghasemzadeh@marquette.edu


Homer proteins are intracellular scaffolding proteins that, among glutamate receptors, selectively bind to group1 metabotropic glutamate receptors and regulate their trafficking and intracellular signaling. Homer proteins have been implicated in synaptic and behavioral plasticity, including drug-seeking behavior after cocaine treatment. Homer1 gene activation leads to transcription of a variant mRNA (Homer1a), which functions as an immediate early gene. Homer1a competes with the constitutive Homer proteins (Homer1b/c/d, Homer2a/b, Homer3) for binding to group1 metabotropic glutamate and IP3 receptors. Binding of Homer1a to these proteins disrupts their association with the intracellular signaling scaffold and modulates receptor function. In this study, using RT-PCR, activation of Homer1a mRNA transcription in response to acute and repeated administration of cocaine was characterized in prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, and ventral tegmental area, three mesocorticolimbic nuclei of the rat brain. Moreover, the dopaminergic and glutamatergic regulation of Homer1 gene activation by cocaine was investigated. Acute cocaine rapidly and transiently activated transcription of Homer1a mRNA in all three nuclei. However, repeated administration of cocaine was not effective in inducing the Homer1a mRNA transcription after various withdrawal times ranging from 2 h to 3 weeks. The acute cocaine-mediated activation of Homer1 gene was regulated by D1 but not D2 dopamine receptors. The blockade of AMPA or NMDA glutamate receptors did not prevent cocaine-mediated activation of Homer1 gene in the three mesocorticolimbic nuclei. These data indicate that acute administration of cocaine transiently activates Homer1 gene producing the immediate early gene Homer1a mRNA in the three mesocorticolimbic nuclei of the rat brain. Activation of Homer1 gene may contribute to the cocaine-mediated synaptic and behavioral plasticity.

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