Repeated dosing with cocaine produces strain-dependent effects on responding for conditioned reinforcement in Collaborative Cross mice.

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JMG, Rats, Male, Female, Mice, Animals, Cocaine, Collaborative Cross Mice, Dopamine, Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Reward, Nucleus Accumbens

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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2023;240(3):561-73.







This work was supported, in part, by PHS grants P50-DA039841 and T32-AA025606.


RATIONALE: Cocaine use disorder (CUD) is a highly heritable form of substance use disorder, with genetic variation accounting for a substantial proportion of the risk for transitioning from recreational use to a clinically impairing addiction. With repeated exposures to cocaine, psychomotor and incentive sensitization are observed in rodents. These phenomena are thought to model behavioral changes elicited by the drug that contribute to the progression into addiction, but little is known about how genetic variation may moderate these consequences.

OBJECTIVES: Here, we describe the use of two Collaborative Cross (CC) recombinant inbred mouse strains that either exhibit high (CC018/UncJ) or no (CC027/GeniUncJ) psychomotor sensitization in response to cocaine to measure phenotypes related to incentive sensitization after repeated cocaine exposures; given the relationship of incentive motivation to nucleus accumbens core (NAc) dopamine release and reuptake, we also assessed these neurochemical mechanisms.

METHODS: Adult male and female CC018/UncJ and CC027/GeniUncJ mice underwent Pavlovian conditioning to associate a visual cue with presentation of a palatable food reward, then received five, every-other-day injections of cocaine or vehicle. Following Pavlovian re-training, they underwent testing acquisition of a new operant response for the visual cue, now serving as a conditioned reinforcer. Subsequently, electrically evoked dopamine release was assessed using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry from acute brain slices containing the NAc.

RESULTS: While both strains acquired the Pavlovian association, only CC018/UncJ mice showed conditioned reinforcement and incentive sensitization in response to cocaine, while CC027/GeniUncJ mice did not. Voltammetry data revealed that CC018/UncJ, compared to CC027/GeniUnc, mice exhibited higher baseline dopamine release and uptake. Moreover, chronic cocaine exposure blunted tonic and phasic dopamine release in CC018/UncJ, but not CC027/GeniUncJ, mice.

CONCLUSIONS: Genetic background is a moderator of cocaine-induced neuroadaptations in mesolimbic dopamine signaling, which may contribute to both psychomotor and incentive sensitization and indicate a shared biological mechanism of variation.