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Keywords:

  • self-administration;
  • immunoblotting;
  • Homers;
  • group 1 mGluRs;
  • rat

Abstract

Human cocaine addicts show altered function within the basal ganglia and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and altered glutamate function within these areas is postulated to be critical for cocaine addiction. The present project utilized a highly valid animal model of cocaine addiction, to test whether excessive use of cocaine alters glutamate function within these brain areas. Rats were trained to lever-press for i.v. saline vehicle or cocaine (0.25 mg/infusion) over seven 1-h daily sessions, after which, saline controls and half of cocaine self-administering animals (brief access condition) received 10 more 1-h daily sessions, whereas the remaining cocaine animals received 10 additional 6-h daily sessions (extended access condition). One, 14, or 60 days after the last self-administration session, animals were sacrificed. Tissue samples from the ventral tegmental area (VTA), nucleus accumbens (N.Acc) core and shell, and mPFC were analyzed by immunoblotting for expression of Homer1b/c, Homer2a/b, mGluR1, mGluR5, NR2a, and NR2b subunits of the NMDA receptor. Brief and extended access to cocaine failed to alter protein levels within the VTA, and produced transient and similar changes in N.Acc protein expression, which were more pronounced in the core subregion. In contrast, extended access to cocaine resulted in distinct and long lasting alterations of protein expression within the mPFC that included: increased levels of Homer1b/c at 1 day, NR2b at 14 days, and NR2a at 60 days, of withdrawal. These data support the notion that altered NMDA function within the mPFC may contribute, in part, to the transition to excessive uncontrolled consumption of cocaine. Synapse 63:598–609, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.