Cocaine self-administration induces sex-dependent protein expression in the nucleus accumbens

Alberto J. López, Amy R. Johnson, Tanner J. Euston, Rashaun Wilson, Suzanne O. Nolan, Lillian J. Brady, Kimberly C. Thibeault, Shannon J. Kelly, Veronika Kondev, Patrick Melugin, M. Gunes Kutlu, Emily Chuang, Tu Kiet T. Lam, Drew D. Kiraly, Erin S. Calipari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic neuropsychiatric condition characterized by long-lasting alterations in the neural circuitry regulating reward and motivation. Substantial work has focused on characterizing the molecular substrates that underlie these persistent changes in neural function and behavior. However, this work has overwhelmingly focused on male subjects, despite mounting clinical and preclinical evidence that females demonstrate dissimilar progression to SUD and responsivity to stimulant drugs of abuse, such as cocaine. Here, we show that sex is a critical biological variable that defines drug-induced plasticity in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). Using quantitative mass spectrometry, we assessed the protein expression patterns induced by cocaine self-administration and demonstrated unique molecular profiles between males and females. We show that 1. Cocaine self-administration induces non-overlapping protein expression patterns in significantly regulated proteins in males and females and 2. Critically, cocaine-induced protein regulation differentially interacts with sex to eliminate basal sexual dimorphisms in the proteome. Finally, eliminating these baseline differences in the proteome is concomitant with the elimination of sex differences in behavior for non-drug rewards. Together, these data suggest that cocaine administration is capable of rewriting basal proteomic function and reward-associated behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number883
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


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