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J Neurosci. 2005 Jul 6;25(27):6389-93.

Cystine/glutamate exchange regulates metabotropic glutamate receptor presynaptic inhibition of excitatory transmission and vulnerability to cocaine seeking.

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  • 1Department of Neurosciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina 29425, USA.


Withdrawal from chronic cocaine reduces extracellular glutamate levels in the nucleus accumbens by decreasing cystine/glutamate exchange (xc-). Activating xc- with N-acetylcysteine restores extracellular glutamate and prevents cocaine-induced drug seeking. It was hypothesized that the activation of xc- prevents drug seeking by increasing glutamatergic tone on presynaptic group II metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR2/3) and thereby inhibiting excitatory transmission. In the first experiment, the capacity of glutamate derived from xc- to regulate excitatory transmission via mGluR2/3 was determined. Physiological levels of cystine (100-300 nm) were restored to acute tissue slices from the nucleus accumbens or prefrontal cortex. Cystine increased glutamate efflux and decreased miniature EPSC (mEPSC) and spontaneous EPSC (sEPSC) frequency as well as evoked EPSC amplitude. These effects of cystine were presynaptic, because there was no change in mEPSC or sEPSC amplitude, and an increase in the evoked EPSC paired-pulse facilitation ratio. The cystine-induced reduction in EPSCs was reversed by blocking either xc- or mGluR2/3. In the second experiment, blocking mGluR2/3 prevented the ability of N-acetylcystine to inhibit the reinstatement of drug seeking in rats trained to self-administer cocaine. These data demonstrate that nonsynaptic glutamate derived from xc- modulates synaptic glutamate release and thereby regulates cocaine-induced drug seeking.

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