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Genes Brain Behav. 2008 Mar;7(2):193-202. Epub 2007 Jul 19.

Transcriptional responses to reinforcing effects of cocaine in the rat hippocampus and cortex.

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Molecular Neuropsychiatry Branch, National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH/DHHS, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


The psychostimulant effects of cocaine are thought to result from its ability to block dopamine (DA) uptake and increase DA levels in ventral striatum. In addition, cocaine causes biochemical changes in the brain areas involved in learning and memory, including hippocampus and cortex, whose role in drug reinforcement is now being actively investigated. Thus, we studied molecular events in the hippocampus and frontal cortex of rats treated with cocaine conditioned place preference (CPP) paradigm. After exposure to cocaine conditioning (cocaine paired), cocaine alone (cocaine non-paired) or saline rats were tested for place conditioning. Cocaine (10 mg/kg) caused increases in time spent in the drug-paired compartment. By using microarray analyses, we examined gene expression in the hippocampi and frontal cortices of cocaine-paired rats, cocaine non-paired and saline-treated controls. Our study revealed that 214 transcripts were differentially regulated in the hippocampi of cocaine-paired rats. These include genes that play roles in protein phosphorylation, RNA processing and protein synthesis, ubiquitin-dependent protein degradation and cytoskeleton organization. In contrast, 39 genes were differently expressed in the frontal cortex. Our data support the possibility that molecular changes in the hippocampus might participate in the formation and maintenance of memory patterns induced by cocaine in the brain. Differences in the transcriptional responses in the hippocampus and cortex suggest the primary importance of the hippocampus for recent memory processing associated with cocaine-induced CPP.

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