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Behav Pharmacol. 2011 Sep;22(5-6):525-30. doi: 10.1097/FBP.0b013e328349ab22.

Lack of cocaine-like discriminative-stimulus effects of σ-receptor agonists in rats.

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Psychobiology Section, Medications Discovery Research Branch, Intramural Research Program, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA.


Previous studies demonstrated the effectiveness of selective σ-receptor (σR) agonists [1,3-di-o-tolylguanidine (DTG), PRE-084] as reinforcers in rats trained to self-administer cocaine. Similar to cocaine, these drugs increased nucleus accumbens shell dopamine levels, and effects of DTG, but not PRE-084, on dopamine seemed to be mediated by σRs. In addition, σR antagonists blocked self-administration of σR agonists, but were inactive against reinforcing and neurochemical effects of cocaine. Thus, pharmacologically distinct mechanisms likely underlie the reinforcing and neurochemical effects of σR agonists and cocaine. This study further examined the cocaine-like effects of σR agonists in rats trained to discriminate injections of cocaine from saline to assess the similarity of their subjective effects. Standard dopamine-uptake inhibitors (WIN 35,428, methylphenidate), but neither σR agonist (PRE-084, DTG), produced full cocaine-like discriminative-stimulus effects. The lack of effects of σR agonists was obtained regardless of route of administration (intraperitoneal, subcutaneous, or intravenous) or pretreatment time (5 or 30 min before sessions). The present results demonstrate differences in the discriminative-stimulus effects of cocaine and selective σR agonists, indicating that an overlap of subjective effects is not necessary for σR agonist self-administration. The previously found differences in neurochemical effects of cocaine and σR agonists may contribute to their different subjective effects.

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