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Neurochem Int. 2019 Mar;124:10-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2018.12.004. Epub 2018 Dec 14.

Expression of immediate early genes in brain reward circuitries: Differential regulation by psychostimulant and opioid drugs.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Farmacológicas (ININFA-UBA-CONICET), Junín 956, piso 5, C1113, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
NIDA Intramural Program, Molecular Neuropsychiatry Research Branch, 251 Bayview Boulevard, Baltimore, MD, 21224, USA. Electronic address:


Although some of the clinical manifestations of substance use disorders might be superficially similar, it is highly likely that different classes of abused drugs including opioids (heroin, morphine, and oxycodone, other opioids) and psychostimulants (cocaine and amphetamines) cause different neuroadaptations in various brain regions dependent in the distribution and concentration of their biochemical sites of actions. In fact, different molecular networks are indeed impacted by acute and chronic administration of addictive substances. Some of the genes whose expression is influenced by the administration of these substances are immediate-early genes (IEGs). IEGs include classes of low expression genes that can become very highly induced within seconds or minutes of activation by endogenous or exogenous stimuli. These IEGs might play important roles in activating target genes that regulate adaptations implicated in the behavioral manifestations diagnosed as addiction. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to provide an overview of recent data on the effects of psychostimulants and opioids on IEG expression in the brain. The review documents some contrasting effects of these classes of drugs on gene expression and indicates that further studies are necessary to identify the specific effects of each drug class when trying to predict clinical responses to therapeutic agents.


Immediate early genes (IEGs); Opioid; Psychostimulant

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