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AAPS J. 2005 Sep 2;7(1):E259-65.

Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript peptides play a role in drug abuse and are potential therapeutic targets.

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Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA.


Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) peptides (55 to 102 and 62 to 102) are neurotransmitters with important roles in a number of physiologic processes. They have a role in drug abuse by virtue of the fact that they are modulators of mesolimbic function. Key findings supporting a role in drug abuse are as follows. First, high densities of CART-containing nerve terminals are localized in mesolimbic areas. Second, CART 55 to 102 blunts some of the behavioral effects of cocaine and dopamine (DA). This functional antagonism suggests that CART peptides be considered as targets for medications development. Third, CREB in the nucleus accumbens has been shown to have an opposing effect on cocaine self-administration. CREB may activate CART expression in that region, and, if so, CART may mediate at least some of the effects of CREB. Fourth, in addition to the effects of CART on DA, DA can influence CART in the accumbens. Thus a complex interacting circuitry likely exists. Fifth, in humans, CART is altered in the ventral tegmental area of cocaine overdose victims, and a mutation in the CART gene associates with alcoholism. Overall, it is clear that there are functional interactions among CART, DA, and cocaine and that plausible cellular mechanisms exist to explain some of these actions. Future studies will clarify and extend these findings.

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