Progression of changes in dopamine transporter binding site density as a result of cocaine self-administration in rhesus monkeys.

Center for the Neurobiological Investigation of Drug Abuse, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157, USA.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.75). 05/2001; 21(8):2799-807.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The present study examined the time course of alterations in levels of dopamine transporter (DAT) binding sites that accompany cocaine self-administration using quantitative in vitro receptor autoradiography with [(3)H]WIN 35,428. The density of dopamine transporter binding sites in the striatum of rhesus monkeys with 5 d, 3.3 months, or 1.5 years of cocaine self-administration experience was compared with DAT levels in cocaine-naive control monkeys. Animals in the long-term (1.5 years) exposure group self-administered cocaine at 0.03 mg/kg per injection, whereas the initial (5 d) and chronic (3.3 months) treatment groups were each divided into lower dose (0.03 mg/kg per injection) and higher dose (0.3 mg/kg per injection) groups. Initial cocaine exposure led to moderate decreases in [(3)H]WIN 35,428 binding sites, with significant changes in the dorsolateral caudate (-25%) and central putamen (-19%) at the lower dose. Longer exposure, in contrast, resulted in elevated levels of striatal binding sites. The increases were most pronounced in the ventral striatum at the level of the nucleus accumbens shell. At the lower dose of the chronic phase, for example, significant increases of 21-42% were measured at the caudal level of the ventral caudate, ventral putamen, olfactory tubercle, and accumbens core and shell. Systematic variation of cocaine dose and drug exposure time demonstrated the importance of these factors in determining the intensity of increased DAT levels. With self-administration of higher doses especially, increases were more intense and included dorsal portions of the striatum so that every region at the caudal level exhibited a significant increase in DAT binding sites (20-54%). The similarity of these findings to previous studies in human cocaine addicts strongly suggest that the increased density of dopamine transporters observed in studies of human drug abusers are the result of the neurobiological effects of cocaine, ruling out confounds such as polydrug abuse, preexisting differences in DAT levels, or comorbid psychiatric conditions.

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