Estrogen receptor beta, but not alpha, mediates estrogen's effect on cocaine-induced reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior in ovariectomized female rats

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007 Jun;32(6):1334-45. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301249. Epub 2006 Nov 29.


Preclinical and clinical studies indicate that females are more vulnerable to relapse than males, and the neurobiological effects of estrogen are thought to mediate, in part, the sex differences in cocaine-taking behavior. The goal of the present study was to investigate the involvement of estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) and beta (ERbeta) in estrogen-mediated increases in cocaine-induced reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior in ovariectomized (OVX) female rats. Rats were initially trained to self-administer cocaine (0.4 mg/kg/inf, i.v.) under a fixed-ratio 1 (FR 1) schedule of reinforcement during daily 2-h sessions. After a 10-day maintenance period, cocaine solutions were replaced with saline, and self-administration was extinguished over a 14-day period. OVX rats were then treated with either the mixed ERalpha/beta agonist estradiol benzoate (EB), the ERalpha-selective agonist, propyl-pyrazole-triol (PPT), the ERbeta-selective agonist, diarylpropionitrile (DPN), or a vehicle control (dimethyl sulfoxide, DMSO). Treatment lasted a total of 9 days, and during this time, rats were assessed for nonreinforced reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior after priming injections of saline or cocaine (5, 10, or 15 mg/kg, i.p.). OVX rats showed no differences in self-administration during maintenance or extinction. OVX rats treated with EB exhibited greater responding for cocaine during reinstatement compared to OVX+DMSO controls. Selective activation of ERbeta with DPN also increased cocaine-induced reinstatement responding, whereas selective activation of ERalpha with PPT did not affect cocaine-seeking behavior. These results indicate that estrogen influences the propensity for reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior, and that estrogen-mediated enhancement of cocaine-induced reinstatement responding involves the activation of ERbeta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / physiology*
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / physiology*
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Extinction, Psychological / drug effects
  • Female
  • Ovariectomy*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Estrogens
  • Estradiol
  • Cocaine