Drugs of abuse specifically sensitize noradrenergic and serotonergic neurons via a non-dopaminergic mechanism

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2008 Jun;33(7):1724-34. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301548. Epub 2007 Sep 5.


A challenge in drug dependence is to delineate long-term neurochemical modifications induced by drugs of abuse. Repeated d-amphetamine was recently shown to disrupt a mutual regulatory link between noradrenergic and serotonergic neurons, thus inducing long-term increased responses to d-amphetamine and para-chloroamphetamine, respectively. We show here that such a sensitization of noradrenergic and serotonergic neurons also occurs following repeated treatment with cocaine, morphine, or alcohol, three compounds belonging to main groups of addictive substances. In all cases, this sensitization is prevented by alpha 1b-adrenergic and 5-HT2A receptors blockade, indicating the critical role of these receptors on long-term effects of drugs of abuse. However, repeated treatments with two non-addictive antidepressants, venlafaxine, and clorimipramine, which nevertheless inhibit noradrenergic and serotonergic reuptake, do not induce noradrenergic and serotonergic neurons sensitization. Similarly, this sensitization does not occur following repeated treatments with a specific inhibitor of dopamine (DA) reuptake, GBR12783. Moreover, we show that the effects of SCH23390, a D1 receptor antagonist known to inhibit development of d-amphetamine behavioral sensitization, are due to its 5-HT2C receptor agonist property. SCH23390 blocks amphetamine-induced release of norepinephrine and RS102221, a 5-HT2C antagonist, can reverse this inhibition as well as inhibition of noradrenergic sensitization and development of behavioral sensitization induced by repeated d-amphetamine. We propose that noradrenergic/serotonergic uncoupling is a common neurochemical consequence of repeated consumption of drugs of abuse, unrelated with DA release. Our data also suggest that compounds able to restore the link between noradrenergic and serotonergic modulatory systems could represent important therapeutic targets for investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Cocaine / adverse effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine Agents / administration & dosage
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Interactions
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Morphine / adverse effects
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Serotonin Agents / pharmacology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • p-Chloroamphetamine / adverse effects


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Serotonin Agents
  • Serotonin
  • Ethanol
  • p-Chloroamphetamine
  • Morphine
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine