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Synapse. 1993 May;14(1):40-50.

Biosynthesis of dopamine and serotonin in the rat brain after repeated cocaine injections: a microdissection mapping study.

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Clinical Psychopharmacology Section, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21224.


The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of chronic cocaine on dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) synthesis in several rat brain regions implicated in drug reinforcement. Male rats were treated twice daily with cocaine (15 mg/kg, ip) or saline for 1 week. After 42 hr of abstinence, rats were challenged with either cocaine (15 mg/kg, ip) or saline, followed by the aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase inhibitor 3-hydroxybenzylhydrazine (NSD-1015; 100 mg/kg, ip). Animals were decapitated 30 min after NSD-1015 and discrete brain regions were microdisected from 300 microns frozen sections. Postmortem tissue levels of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) and 5-hyroxytryptophan (5-HTP) were quantified by HPLC with electrochemical detection and used to estimate biosynthesis of DA and 5-HT, respectively. In chronic saline-treated rats, cocaine dramatically suppressed DA and 5-HT synthesis in all forebrain regions examined, including: medial prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, caudate nucleus, olfactory tubercle, and basolateral amygdala. The degree of inhibition ranged from 35-65% and was more pronounced in 5-HT neurons compared to DA neurons in the same tissue sample. In general, chronic cocaine did not significantly alter basal levels of DOPA or 5-HTP; a notable exception was lateral hypothalamus, where chronic cocaine reduced basal DA synthesis to 75% of control. After repeated cocaine injections, the synthesis-inhibiting effect of a challenge injection of cocaine was attenuated in many brain areas. These data suggest that whereas acute cocaine decreases DA and 5-HT synthesis in forebrain, chronic cocaine is not neurotoxic to DA and 5-HT neurons. In addition, the mechanism(s) mediating cocaine-induced suppression of monoamine synthesis may become desensitized by chronic exposure to the drug.

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