Repeated exposure to cocaine alters medial prefrontal cortex dopamine D₂-like receptor modulation of glutamate and dopamine neurotransmission within the mesocorticolimbic system.

Research paper by Kun K Liu, Jeffery D JD Steketee

Indexed on: 23 Jun '11Published on: 23 Jun '11Published in: Journal of Neurochemistry


Repeated exposure to cocaine progressively increases drug-induced locomotor activity, which is termed behavioral sensitization. Previous studies have demonstrated that sensitization to cocaine is associated with a decrease in dopamine D₂ receptor function in the medial prefrontal cortex. The present report tested the hypothesis that reduced medial prefrontal cortex D₂ receptor function as a result of repeated cocaine exposure results in augmented excitatory transmission to the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area, possibly as a partial result of enhanced inhibition of local dopamine release. Dual probe microdialysis experiments were conducted in male Sprague-Dawley rats 1, 7 or 30 days following the last of four daily injections of saline (1.0 mL/kg) or cocaine (15 mg/kg). Infusion of quinpirole (0.01, 1.0 and 100 μM), a D₂-like receptor agonist, into the medial prefrontal cortex produced a dose-dependent decrease in cortical, nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area extracellular glutamate levels in control but not sensitized animals. Quinpirole also reduced basal dopamine levels in the medial prefrontal cortex in sensitized animals following 1 day of withdrawal from cocaine. Following 30 days of withdrawal, quinpirole also reduced dopamine levels in sensitized animals relative to saline controls, but not relative to baseline levels. These findings indicate that the expression of sensitization to cocaine is associated with altered modulation of mesocorticolimbic glutamatergic transmission at the level of the medial prefrontal cortex.