Characterization of genetically complex Collaborative Cross mouse strains that model divergent locomotor activating and reinforcing properties of cocaine.

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Animals, Behavior, Addictive, Cocaine, Cocaine-Related Disorders, Collaborative Cross Mice, Corpus Striatum, Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors, Female, Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System, Locomotion, Male, Mice, Pituitary-Adrenal System, Reinforcement, Psychology, Reward, Self Administration, Species Specificity

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Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2020 Apr; 237(4):979-996





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RATIONALE: Few effective treatments exist for cocaine use disorders due to gaps in knowledge about its complex etiology. Genetically defined animal models provide a useful tool for advancing our understanding of the biological and genetic underpinnings of addiction-related behavior and evaluating potential treatments. However, many attempts at developing mouse models of behavioral disorders were based on overly simplified single gene perturbations, often leading to inconsistent and misleading results in pre-clinical pharmacology studies. A genetically complex mouse model may better reflect disease-related behaviors.

OBJECTIVES: Screening defined, yet genetically complex, intercrosses of the Collaborative Cross (CC) mice revealed two lines, RIX04/17 and RIX41/51, with extreme high and low behavioral responses to cocaine. We characterized these lines as well as their CC parents, CC004/TauUnc and CC041/TauUnc, to evaluate their utility as novel model systems for studying the biological and genetic mechanisms underlying behavioral responses to cocaine.

METHODS: Behavioral responses to acute (initial locomotor sensitivity) and repeated (behavioral sensitization, conditioned place preference, intravenous self-administration) exposures to cocaine were assessed. We also examined the monoaminergic system (striatal tissue content and in vivo fast scan cyclic voltammetry), HPA axis reactivity, and circadian rhythms as potential mechanisms for the divergent phenotypic behaviors observed in the two strains, as these systems have a previously known role in mediating addiction-related behaviors.

RESULTS: RIX04/17 and 41/51 show strikingly divergent initial locomotor sensitivity to cocaine with RIX04/17 exhibiting very high and RIX41/51 almost no response. The lines also differ in the emergence of behavioral sensitization with RIX41/51 requiring more exposures to exhibit a sensitized response. Both lines show conditioned place preference for cocaine. We determined that the cocaine sensitivity phenotype in each RIX line was largely driven by the genetic influence of one CC parental strain, CC004/TauUnc and CC041/TauUnc. CC004 demonstrates active operant cocaine self-administration and CC041 is unable to acquire under the same testing conditions, a deficit which is specific to cocaine as both strains show operant response for a natural food reward. Examination of potential mechanisms driving differential responses to cocaine show strain differences in molecular and behavioral circadian rhythms. Additionally, while there is no difference in striatal dopamine tissue content or dynamics, there are selective differences in striatal norepinephrine and serotonergic tissue content.

CONCLUSIONS: These CC strains offer a complex polygenic model system to study underlying mechanisms of cocaine response. We propose that CC041/TauUnc and CC004/TauUnc will be useful for studying genetic and biological mechanisms underlying resistance or vulnerability to the stimulatory and reinforcing effects of cocaine.


The authors would like to thank The Jackson Laboratory Surgical Services team for performing the jugular catheter implantation on IVSA animals.

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