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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Jul;37(8):1856-66. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.33. Epub 2012 Mar 28.

A novel mechanism of cocaine to enhance dopamine d2-like receptor mediated neurochemical and behavioral effects. An in vivo and in vitro study.

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Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Pharmacology Section and LTTA Centre, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.


Recent in vitro results suggest that cocaine may exert direct and/or indirect allosteric enhancing actions at dopamine (DA) D(2) receptors (D(2)Rs). In the present paper we tested the hypothesis that cocaine in vivo can enhance the effects of the D(2)-likeR agonist quinpirole in rats by using microdialysis and pharmacological behavioral studies. Furthermore, in vitro D(2)-likeR binding characteristics and Gα(i/o)-protein coupling, in the absence and in the presence of cocaine, have been investigated in rat striatal membranes. Intra-nucleus accumbens perfusion of the D(2)-likeR agonist quinpirole (10 μM) reduced local dialysate glutamate levels, whereas cocaine (10 and 100 nM) was ineffective. At a low concentration (100 nM), cocaine significantly enhanced quinpirole-induced reduction of accumbal extracellular glutamate levels. The behavioral experiments showed that cocaine (0.625 mg/kg), but not the DA uptake blocker GBR 12783 (1.25 mg/kg), enhanced quinpirole (1 mg/kg)-induced hyperlocomotion. Finally, cocaine (100 nM), but not GBR 12783 (200 nM), produced a small, but significant increase in the efficacy of DA to stimulate binding of GTPγS to striatal D(2)-likeRs, whereas the D(2)-likeR binding characteristics were unchanged in striatal membranes by cocaine in the nM range. The significant increase in the maximal response to DA-stimulated GTPγS binding to D(2)-likeRs by 100 nM cocaine remained in the presence of GBR 12783. The observed cocaine-induced enhancement of the Gα(i/o)-protein coupling of D(2)Rs may be in part because of allosteric direct and/or indirect enhancing effects of cocaine at these receptors. These novel actions of cocaine may have relevance for understanding the actions of cocaine upon accumbal DA, and/or glutamate transmission and thus its rewarding as well as relapsing effects.

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