Relapse to cocaine-seeking after abstinence is regulated by cAMP-dependent protein kinase A in the prefrontal cortex



Abstinence from cocaine self-administration (SA) is associated with neuroadaptations in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and nucleus accumbens (NAc) that are implicated in cocaine-induced neuronal plasticity and relapse to drug-seeking. Alterations in cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) signaling are prominent in medium spiny neurons in the NAc after repeated cocaine exposure but it is unknown whether similar changes occur in the PFC. Because cocaine SA induces disturbances in glutamatergic transmission in the PFC-NAc pathway, we examined whether dysregulation of PKA-mediated molecular targets in PFC-NAc neurons occurs during abstinence and, if so, whether it contributes to cocaine-seeking. We measured the phosphorylation of cAMP response element binding protein (Ser133) and GluA1 (Ser845) in the dorsomedial (dm) PFC and the presynaptic marker, synapsin I (Ser9, Ser62/67, Ser603), in the NAc after 7 days of abstinence from cocaine SA with or without cue-induced cocaine-seeking. We also evaluated whether infusion of the PKA inhibitor, 8-bromo-Rp-cyclic adenosine 3′, 5′-monophosphorothioate (Rp-cAMPs), into the dmPFC after abstinence would affect cue-induced cocaine-seeking and PKA-regulated phosphoprotein levels. Seven days of forced abstinence increased the phosphorylation of cAMP response element binding protein and GluA1 in the dmPFC and synapsin I (Ser9) in the NAc. Induction of these phosphoproteins was reversed by a cue-induced relapse test of cocaine-seeking. Bilateral intra-dmPFC Rp-cAMPs rescued abstinence-elevated PKA-mediated phosphoprotein levels in the dmPFC and NAc and suppressed cue-induced relapse. Thus, by inhibiting abstinence-induced PKA molecular targets, relapse reverses abstinence-induced neuroadaptations in the dmPFC that are responsible, in part, for the expression of cue-induced cocaine-seeking.