Dopamine-dependent increases in phosphorylation of cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) during precipitated morphine withdrawal in primary cultures of rat striatum


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr Bill Carlezon, Department of Psychiatry, McLean Hospital, MRC 217, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478, USA. E-mail:


Chronic morphine leads to compensatory up-regulation of cAMP signaling pathways in numerous brain regions. One potential consequence of up-regulated cAMP signaling is increased phosphorylation of cAMP response element binding protein (CREB), a transcription factor that may regulate neuroadaptations related to morphine dependence. Altered gene expression within the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a ventral component of the striatum that receives substantial dopaminergic input, may play a role in some of the motivational aspects of opiate withdrawal. To determine if morphine withdrawal leads to increased CREB phosphorylation in striatal tissues, we examined the effects of naloxone-precipitated morphine withdrawal on CREB phosphorylation in primary cultures of rat striatal neurons. Precipitated morphine withdrawal was associated with enhanced dopamine-, SKF 82958 (D1 receptor agonist)-, and forskolin-induced CREB phosphorylation. During precipitated withdrawal, D1 receptor-mediated CREB phosphorylation was dependent on cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA). Precipitated withdrawal also led to up-regulation of c-fos mRNA in response to SKF 82958. CREB protein levels were not altered by acute or chronic morphine. These results suggest that D1 receptor-mediated signal transduction is enhanced during morphine withdrawal. Furthermore, they are consistent with in vivo evidence suggesting that increased CREB activation in portions of the striatum (e.g. the NAc) is related to dysphoric states associated with drug withdrawal.