Reinforcement-Related Regulation of AMPA Glutamate Receptor Subunits in the Ventral Tegmental Area Enhances Motivation for Cocaine

Department of Psychiatry, The Seay Center for Basic and Applied Research in Psychiatric Illness, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390-9070, USA.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.34). 05/2011; 31(21):7927-37. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6014-10.2011
Source: PubMed


Chronic cocaine use produces numerous biological changes in brain, but relatively few are functionally associated with cocaine reinforcement. Here we show that daily intravenous cocaine self-administration, but not passive cocaine administration, induces dynamic upregulation of the AMPA glutamate receptor subunits GluR1 and GluR2 in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of rats. Increases in GluR1 protein and GluR1(S845) phosphorylation are associated with increased GluR1 mRNA in self-administering animals, whereas increased GluR2 protein levels occurred despite substantial decreases in GluR2 mRNA. We investigated the functional significance of GluR1 upregulation in the VTA on cocaine self-administration using localized viral-mediated gene transfer. Overexpression of GluR1(WT) in rat VTA primarily infected dopamine neurons (75%) and increased AMPA receptor-mediated membrane rectification in these neurons with AMPA application. Similar GluR1(WT) overexpression potentiated locomotor responses to intra-VTA AMPA, but not NMDA, infusions. In cocaine self-administering animals, overexpression of GluR1(WT) in the VTA markedly increased the motivation for cocaine injections on a progressive ratio schedule of cocaine reinforcement. In contrast, overexpression of protein kinase A-resistant GluR1(S845A) in the VTA reduced peak rates of cocaine self-administration on a fixed ratio reinforcement schedule. Neither viral vector altered sucrose self-administration, and overexpression of GluR1(WT) or GluR1(S845A) in the adjacent substantia nigra had no effect on cocaine self-administration. Together, these results suggest that dynamic regulation of AMPA receptors in the VTA during cocaine self-administration contributes to cocaine addiction by acting to facilitate subsequent cocaine use.

Download full-text


Available from: Jessica J Walsh
  • Source
    • "Additionally, these animals displayed a potentiated CPP to morphine (Carlezon et al., 1997). Recently, it was also shown that such rats show increased motivation for self-administration of cocaine (Choi et al., 2011). The main problem with this type of study is that the forced overexpression of GluR1 is not physiological. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Drug-induced changes in the functional properties of neurons in the mesolimbic dopaminergic system are attractive candidates for the molecular underpinnings of addiction. A central question in this context has been how drugs of abuse affect synaptic plasticity on dopaminergic cells in the ventral tegmental area. We now know that the intake of addictive drugs is accompanied by a complex sequence of alterations in the properties of excitatory synapses on dopaminergic neurons, mainly driven by signaling and redistribution of NMDA- and AMPA-receptors. It has, however, been unclear how these molecular changes are related to the behavioral effects of addictive drugs. Recently, new genetic tools have permitted researchers to perform genetic intervention with plasticity-related molecules selectively in dopaminergic cells and to subsequently study the behaviors of genetically modified mice. These studies have started to reveal how plasticity and drug-induced behavior are connected as well as what role plasticity in dopaminergic cells may have in general reward learning. The findings thus far show that there is not a one-to-one relation between plastic events and specific behaviors and that the early responses to drugs of abuse are to a large extent independent of the types of synaptic plasticity so far targeted. In contrast, plasticity in dopaminergic cells indeed is an important regulator of the persistence of behaviors driven by drug associations, making synaptic plasticity in dopaminergic cells an important field of study for understanding the mechanisms behind relapse.
    Preview · Article · Aug 2012 · Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Glutaminase is considered the main glutamate (Glu)-producing enzyme. Two isoforms, liver (LGA)- and kidney (KGA)-type glutaminases, have been identified in neurons. The role of both enzymes in psychopharmacological responses to cocaine remains unknown. We examined both mRNA and protein expression of KGA and LGA in the brain of mice sensitized to cocaine. Additionally, total glutaminase activity was also measured. Total glutaminase activity and mRNA and protein expression of KGA and LGA were measured on the dorsal striatum, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum of cocaine-sensitized mice. Cocaine-sensitized animals (20 mg/kg × 5 days, followed by 5 drug-free days) exhibited a decrease of total glutaminase activity in both the dorsal striatum and the prefrontal cortex. This was associated with an increase in KGA mRNA expression in both brain areas that was not observed when protein KGA levels were measured by western blot. LGA mRNA expression was increased as results of acute cocaine administration in sensitized animals, although protein levels were only enhanced in the prefrontal cortex of sensitized mice. These findings suggest that chronic cocaine administration modulates glutamate production through the regulation of glutaminase expression and activity. These actions are mainly observed in the prefrontal cortex-dorsal striatum circuit, the neuroanatomical target for the psychostimulant sensitization properties of cocaine. The present results indicate that glutaminase enzymes (mainly KGA) are modulated by cocaine in both the prefrontal cortex and the dorsal striatum, as part of the neuroadaptions associated with behavioural sensitization to this drug of abuse.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2011 · Psychopharmacology
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A continuously increasing body of knowledge shows that the brain is an extremely complex neural network and single neurons possess their own complicated interactive signaling pathways. Such complexity of the nervous system makes it increasingly difficult to investigate the functions of specific neural components such as genes, proteins, transcription factors, neurons and nuclei in the brain. Technically, it has been even more of a significant challenge to identify the molecular and cellular adaptations that are both sufficient and necessary to underlie behavioral functions in health and disease states. Defining such neural adaptations is a critical step to identify the potential therapeutic targets within the complex neural network that are beneficial to treat psychiatric disorders. Recently, the new development and extensive application of in vivo viral-mediated gene transfer (virogenetics) and optical manipulation of specific neurons or selective neural circuits in freely-moving animals (optogenetics) make it feasible, through loss- and gain-of-function approaches, to reliably define sufficient and necessary neuroadaptations in the behavioral models of psychiatric disorders, including drug addiction, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders. In this article, we focus on recent studies that successfully employ these advanced virogenetic and optogenetic techniques as a powerful tool to identify potential targets in the brain, and to provide highly useful information in the development of novel therapeutic strategies for psychiatric disorders. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Anxiety and Depression'.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2011 · Neuropharmacology
Show more