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Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Feb 1;69(3):228-35. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.09.014. Epub 2010 Oct 27.

Exposure to cocaine alters dynorphin-mediated regulation of excitatory synaptic transmission in nucleus accumbens neurons.

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Washington State University, Pullman, USA.



Dysregulation of excitatory synaptic input to nucleus accumbens (NAc) medium spiny neurons (MSNs) underlies a key pathophysiology of drug addiction and addiction-associated emotional and motivational alterations. Dynorphin peptides, which exhibit higher affinity to κ type opioid receptors, are upregulated within the NAc upon exposure to cocaine administration, and the increased dynorphin-signaling in the NAc has been critically implicated in negative mood observed in cocaine- or stress-exposed animals. Despite such apparent behavioral significance of the NAc dynorphins, the understanding of how dynorphins regulate excitatory synaptic transmission in the NAc remains incomplete.


We used electrophysiological recording in brain slices to examine the effects of dynorphins on excitatory synaptic transmission in the NAc.


We focused on two key dynorphins, dynorphin A and B. Our current results show that dynorphin A and B differentially regulated excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) in NAc MSNs. Whereas perfusions of both dynorphin A and B to NAc slices decreased EPSCs in MSNs, the effect of dynorphin A but not dynorphin B was completely reversed by the κ receptor-selective antagonist nor-binaltorphimine. These results implicate κ receptor-independent mechanisms in dynorphin B-mediated synaptic effects in the NAc. Furthermore, repeated exposure to cocaine (15 mg/kg/day via intraperitoneal injection for 5 days, with 1, 2, or 14 days withdrawal) completely abolished dynorphin A-mediated modulation of EPSCs in NAc MSNs, whereas the effect of dynorphin B remained largely unchanged.


Given the quantitatively higher abundance of dynorphin B in the NAc, our present results suggest that the dynorphin B-mediated, κ receptor-independent pathways predominate in the overall effect of dynorphins in cocaine-pretreated animals and potentially in cocaine-induced alterations in mood.

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