Lack of CB1 cannabinoid receptor impairs cocaine self-administration

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005 Sep;30(9):1670-80. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300707.


Acute rewarding properties are essential for the establishment of cocaine addiction, and multiple neurochemical processes participate in this complex behavior. In the present study, we used the self-administration paradigm to evaluate the role of CB1 cannabinoid receptors in several aspects of cocaine reward, including acquisition, maintenance, and motivation to seek the drug. For this purpose, both CB1 receptor knockout mice and wild-type littermates were trained to intravenously self-administer cocaine under different schedules. Several cocaine training doses (0.32, 1, and 3.2 mg/kg/infusion) were used in the acquisition studies. Only 25% of CB1 knockout mice vs 75% of their wild-type littermates acquired a reliable operant responding to self-administer the most effective dose of cocaine (1 mg/kg/infusion), and the number of sessions required to attain this behavior was increased in knockout mice. Animals reaching the acquisition criteria were evaluated for the motivational strength of cocaine as a reinforcer under a progressive ratio schedule. The maximal effort to obtain a cocaine infusion was significantly reduced after the genetic ablation of CB1 receptors. A similar result was obtained after the pharmacological blockade of CB1 receptors with SR141716A in wild-type mice. Moreover, the cocaine dose-response curve was flattened in the knockout group, suggesting that the differences observed between genotypes were related to changes in the reinforcing efficacy of the training dose of cocaine. Self-administration for water and food was not altered in CB1 knockout mice in any of the reinforcement schedules used, which emphasizes the selective impairment of drug reinforcement in these knockout mice. Finally, cocaine effects on mesolimbic dopaminergic transmission were evaluated by in vivo microdialysis in these mice. Acute cocaine administration induced a similar enhancement in the extracellular levels of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens of both CB1 knockout and wild-type mice. This work clearly demonstrates that CB1 receptors play an important role in the consolidation of cocaine reinforcement, although are not required for its acute effects on mesolimbic dopaminergic transmission.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Food Deprivation / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microdialysis / methods
  • Piperidines / administration & dosage
  • Pyrazoles / administration & dosage
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / deficiency*
  • Rimonabant
  • Self Administration*
  • Time Factors
  • Water Deprivation / physiology


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Cocaine
  • Rimonabant
  • Dopamine