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J Neurosci. 2010 Jan 6;30(1):210-7. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1342-09.2010.

Drug-induced plasticity contributing to heightened relapse susceptibility: neurochemical changes and augmented reinstatement in high-intake rats.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233, USA.


A key in understanding the neurobiology of addiction and developing effective pharmacotherapies is revealing drug-induced plasticity that results in heightened relapse susceptibility. Previous studies have demonstrated that increased extracellular glutamate, but not dopamine, in the nucleus accumbens core (NAcc) is necessary for cocaine-induced reinstatement. In this report, we examined whether drug-induced adaptations that are necessary to generate cocaine-induced reinstatement also determine relapse vulnerability. To do this, rats were assigned to self-administer cocaine under conditions resulting in low (2 h/d; 0.5 mg/kg/infusion, i.v.) or high (6 h/d; 1.0 mg/kg/infusion, i.v.) levels of drug intake since these manipulations produce groups of rats exhibiting differences in the magnitude of cocaine-induced reinstatement. Approximately 19 d after the last session, cocaine-induced drug seeking and extracellular levels of glutamate and dopamine in the NAcc were measured. Contrary to our hypothesis, high-intake rats exhibited a more robust cocaine-induced increase in extracellular levels of dopamine but not glutamate. Further, increased reinstatement in high-intake rats was no longer observed when the D(1) receptor antagonist SCH-23390 was infused into the NAcc. The sensitized dopamine response to cocaine in high-intake rats may involve blunted cystine-glutamate exchange by system x(c(-)). Reduced (14)C-cystine uptake through system x(c(-)) was evident in NAcc tissue slices obtained from high-intake rats, and the augmented dopamine response in these rats was no longer observed when subjects received the cysteine prodrug N-acetyl cysteine. These data reveal a role for drug-induced NAcc dopamine in heightened relapse vulnerability observed in rats with a history of high levels of drug intake.

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