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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 13;101(15):5664-9. Epub 2004 Apr 2.

A single cocaine exposure enhances both opioid reward and aversion through a ventral tegmental area-dependent mechanism.

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  • 1Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, Wheeler Center for the Neurobiology of Addiction and Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Repeated exposure to drugs of abuse produces forms of experience-dependent plasticity including behavioral sensitization. Although a single exposure to many addicting substances elicits locomotor sensitization, there is little information regarding the motivational effects of such single exposures. This study demonstrates that a single cocaine exposure enhances both rewarding and aversive forms of opioid place conditioning. Rats were given a single injection of cocaine (15 mg/kg i.p.) in their home cage at different times before conditioning. This treatment enhanced conditioned place preference (CPP) to morphine (2 x 10 mg/kg s.c.) if training began 1 or 5 but not 10 days after the cocaine injection. A single cocaine exposure also enhanced conditioned place aversion (CPA) to the kappa-opioid receptor agonist U69593 (2 x 0.16 mg/kg s.c.). Compared to morphine CPP, U69593 CPA was delayed and persistent. It was not observed at 1 day but appeared if the conditioning began 5 or 10 days after the cocaine injection. Although the cocaine-induced enhancements of both morphine CPP and U69593 CPA followed different time courses, suggesting different mechanisms, both effects were blocked by injection of the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonist MK-801 (0.5 nmol bilaterally) into the ventral tegmental area, immediately before the cocaine injection. Thus, through a circuit involving the ventral tegmental area, a single cocaine exposure enhanced both micro-opioid receptor reward and kappa-opioid receptor aversion.

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