Involvement of cAMP-dependent protein kinase in the nucleus accumbens in cocaine self-administration and relapse of cocaine-seeking behavior

David W. Self, Lisa M. Genova, Bruce T. Hope, William J. Barnhart, Jennifer J. Spencer, Eric J. Nestler

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289 Scopus citations


cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) has been implicated in cocaine addiction because (1) cocaine reinforcement is mediated by dopamine receptors that modulate cAMP formation, and (2) repeated exposure to cocaine upregulates the cAMP system in NAc neurons. This study tested PKA involvement in cocaine self-administration and relapse of cocaine- seeking behavior by infusing cAMP analogs that activate or inhibit PKA into the NAc of rats. Bilateral intra-NAc infusions of the PKA inhibitor R(p)- cAMPS reduced baseline cocaine self-administration, shifted the dose-response curve for cocaine self-administration to the left, and induced relapse of cocaine-seeking behavior after extinction from cocaine self-administration, consistent with an enhancement of cocaine effects in each paradigm. In contrast, pretreatment with intra-NAc infusions of a PKA activator, S(p)- cAMPS or dibutyryl cAMP, increased baseline cocaine self-administration during the second hour of testing and shifted the dose response curve to the right, consistent with an antagonist-like action. After extinction from cocaine self-administration, similar infusions of Sp-cAMPS induced generalized responding at both drug-paired and inactive levers. As an index of PKA activity in vivo, NAc infusions of Rp-cAMPS reduced basal levels of dopamine-regulated phosphoprotein-32 phosphorylation and blocked amphetamine- induced increases in cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation. Conversely, NAc infusions of S(p)-cAMPS increased phosphorylation of CREB. Together, these results suggest that sustained upregulation of the cAMP system in the NAc after repeated cocaine exposure could underlie tolerance to cocaine reinforcement, whereas acute inhibition of this system may contribute to drug craving and relapse in addicted subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1848-1859
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Mar 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Dopamine
  • Drug addiction
  • Drug craving
  • Protein kinase A
  • Reinforcement
  • Reinstatement
  • Reward


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