This application will determine the mechanisms underlying a profound dephosphorylation of ERK MAP kinase and in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (PFC) during early withdrawal from cocaine self-administration (SA) that trigger persistent cocaine-seeking. We have demonstrated that ERK dephosphorylation (or shutoff) in the PFC occurs within 2 hr of the end of repeated, daily cocaine SA. Reversing the ERK shutoff with a single infusion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) into the PFC normalizes glutamate transmission in the nucleus accumbens and suppresses cocaine-seeking in abstinent animals for as long as three weeks. However, BDNF is not a therapeutically useful medication because it is a neuropeptide that does not effectively cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, it is necessary to characterize the molecular mechanisms underlying the cocaine SA-induced ERK shutoff in order to identify alternative targets for medication development. We present a rationale and preliminary evidence to support the hypothesize that the ERK shutoff is mediated by GluN2B receptor activation of the ERK phosphatase, STEP. We propose to investigate this hypothesis in the following aims.
In Aim 1, we will investigate changes in ERK phosphatase activation and the surface expression and synaptic/extrasynaptic distribution of NMDA receptors during early withdrawal from cocaine SA.
In Aim 2, we will investigate whether antagonists of GluN2A or GluN2B receptors will suppress the cocaine-induced ERK/CREB shut-off in the PFC during early withdrawal and persistent cocaine-seeking after abstinence and extinction training.
In Aim 3, we will investigate whether or not inhibition of calcineurin and the ERK phosphatases, STEP or protein phosphatase 2A, will reverse the cocaine-induced ERK/CREB shut-off during early withdrawal and suppress cocaine-seeking after abstinence and extinction training. These studies will impact the field of drug abuse research by advancing our understanding of the key neurobiological substrates that mediate cocaine-induced neuroadaptations and relapse to drug-seeking with the potential of leading to novel preventive interventions during early withdrawal.
Despite the critical nature of cocaine addiction, current preclinical models devoted to investigating the enduring neural substrates of cocaine addiction have yielded little progress in developing new therapeutics. In contrast, this application focuses on intervention during early withdrawal from cocaine self-administration to suppress persistent cocaine-seeking and underlying neuroadaptations. These studies will impact the field of drug abuse research by advancing our understanding of the key neurobiological substrates that mediate early withdrawal- induced neuroadaptations and relapse to drug-seeking with the potential of leading to possible novel therapeutic targets.
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