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Keywords:

  • epidermal growth factor (EGF);
  • schizophrenia;
  • conditioned place preference;
  • locomotor activity;
  • cocaine;
  • methamphetamine

Abstract: Epidermal growth factor (EGF) and its structurally related proteins are involved in the developmental regulation of various brain neurons, including midbrain dopaminergic neurons. We recently reported EGF and EGF-receptor abnormalities in both the brain tissues and blood of schizophrenic patients. Administration of EGF to neonatal rats transiently increases tyrosine hydroxylase expression and subsequently results in behavioral abnormalities in prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle, locomotor activity, and social interaction after development. The enhanced locomotor and stereotypic responses of the neonatally EGF-treated rats are considered to be an animal model for positive schizophrenia symptoms. In the present study, we investigated psychostimulant sensitivity of neonatally EGF-treated rats. At the adult stage, EGF-treated rats were challenged with cocaine (15 mg/kg) or methamphetamine (1 mg/kg), and conditioned place preference and locomotor activity were examined. The rats that received EGF during the neonatal period had significantly higher conditioned place preference for where cocaine or methamphetamine was administered than controls. The neonatal EGF treatment enhanced behavioral response to methamphetamine and behavioral sensitization to cocaine at the adult stage. Drug-naive controls gradually increased locomotor responses to cocaine during their daily injections, whereas EGF-treated rats exhibited a larger increase in cocaine responses. These results indicate that overactivation of the EGF receptors (ErbB1) during the neonatal period influences future sensitivity to psychostimulants. Our findings indicate a potential link between EGF-receptor activation and drug addiction.