Persistent drug-taking behavior involves consolidation of memory for the drug and drug-associated cues and contexts. When a memory is reactivated (retrieved), that memory becomes labile and susceptible to disruption by amnestic agents present at the time of reactivation. Drug abuse studies in rodents indicate that reconsolidation can be disrupted, and this is manifest as suppressed drug-seeking behavior when animals are subsequently primed with the same stimulus used to reactivate the memory. However, most studies have focused on drug-induced conditioned place preference (CPP), in which only a few drug injections are given;thus, the memories may be easier to disrupt. Few labs have focused on the rat self-administration model, which has higher face-validity for human addiction. Self-administration studies showed that reconsolidation of a memory for the drug cue or context can be disrupted by certain agents. However, no studies have disrupted reconsolidation of the memory associated with the drug itself, when the drug is present during reactivation and subsequent reinstatement. This is significant because the drug induces powerful reinstatement in rats and augments relapse in humans. We focus on matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which are emerging as key molecules in the neuroplasticity of learning and memory. MMPs are a family of metallopeptidases that direct changes in synaptic morphology via degradation of the extracellular matrix (ECM). We previously showed that an inhibitor of MMPs blocked reconsolidation of a cocaine-associated memory in CPP studies, and that MMP-9 activity was elevated in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) upon reactivation of this memory. Exciting preliminary self-administration studies show that injection of an MMP inhibitor into the mPFC during reactivation of a cocaine-primed memory suppresses later cocaine-primed reinstatement. However, we do not know if the suppressed responding is due to disruption of reconsolidation, nor do we know which MMPs are involved. Also, no studies have defined the impact of MMP inhibition on membrane excitability in the mPFC in cocaine self-administering rats to assess how MMP inhibitors may alter mPFC output. We propose that MMP inhibitors can modify previous cocaine-induced changes in plasticity and impose new plasticity on synapses during the reconsolidation process. We will test the central hypothesis that a cocaine-associated memory is diminished with MMP inhibitors given during cocaine-primed reinstatement, and that this diminished expression of memory occurs by a decreased ratio of excitatory to inhibitory currents in the mPFC.
Specific Aim 1 will determine the extent to which inhibition of MMPs disrupts reconsolidation of cocaine-associated memory in cocaine self-administering rats.
Specific Aim 2 will define the impact of MMP inhibition on excitatory/inhibitory synaptic input and membrane excitability in the mPFC in cocaine self-administering rats. These studies will have a positive impact on the drug abuse field because they will determine the potential for using MMP inhibitors to disrupt reconsolidation of cocaine memories that may underlie chronic relapse.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed studies will determine the extent to which cocaine-associated memories are able to be disrupted in a rat self-administration model. Disruption of these memories is expected to suppress the motivation to seek or take cocaine. These studies have high translational potential in humans because successful disruption of learned drug-associated memories would help break the cycle of relapse in human cocaine addicts.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior Study Section (NMB)
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Pollock, Jonathan D
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Washington State University
Veterinary Sciences
Schools of Veterinary Medicine
United States
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Sorg, Barbara A (2012) Reconsolidation of drug memories. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 36:1400-17