Effects of acute cocaine or dopamine receptor agonists on AMPA receptor distribution in the rat nucleus accumbens

Carrie R. Ferrario, Xuan Li, Marina E. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Changes in α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionate receptor (AMPAR) surface expression in the rodent nucleus accumbens (NAc) are produced by cocaine exposure and implicated in addiction-related behaviors. The direction of change depends on the animal's prior drug history. However, little is known about the effect of a single exposure to cocaine on AMPAR distribution in the NAc of untreated rats. This is essential information for interpreting the literature on AMPAR trafficking after repeated cocaine exposure. In this study, we used a protein crosslinking assay to determine the effect of a single cocaine injection on surface and intracellular AMPAR subunit levels in the rat NAc. We found increased AMPAR surface expression in the NAc 24 h, but not 30 min or 2 h, after cocaine injection. A major effect of cocaine is to increase extracellular dopamine (DA) levels, leading to DA receptor activation. Therefore, we also evaluated the effects of directly acting DA receptor agonists. In contrast to the effects of cocaine, AMPAR surface expression was significantly decreased 24 h after injection of the D2-class agonist quinpirole, whereas no significant effects were produced by the D1-class agonist SKF 81297 or the mixed DA agonist apomorphine. Our results show that the effects of a single cocaine exposure in drug- and injection-naïve rats are distinct from those previously reported after repeated cocaine administration. They further suggest that cocaine exerts these effects by influencing neuronal circuits rather than simply stimulating NAc DA transmission. Synapse 65:54-63, 2011.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-63
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • D1 receptor
  • D2 receptor
  • Glutamate
  • Plasticity
  • Sensitization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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