Glutamatergic plasticity in medial prefrontal cortex and ventral tegmental area following extended-access cocaine self-administration

Brain Res. 2011 Sep 21;1413:60-71. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2011.06.041. Epub 2011 Jun 23.


Glutamate signaling in prefrontal cortex and ventral tegmental area plays an important role in the molecular and behavioral plasticity associated with addiction to drugs of abuse. The current study investigated the expression and postsynaptic density redistribution of glutamate receptors and synaptic scaffolding proteins in dorsomedial and ventromedial prefrontal cortex and ventral tegmental area after cocaine self-administration. After 14 days of extended-access (6h/day) cocaine self-administration, rats were exposed to one of three withdrawal regimen for 10 days. Animals either stayed in home cages (Home), returned to self-administration boxes with the levers withdrawn (Box), or underwent extinction training (Extinction). Extinction training was associated with significant glutamatergic plasticity. In dorsomedial prefrontal cortex of the Extinction group, there was an increase in postsynaptic density GluR1, PSD95, and actin proteins; while postsynaptic density mGluR5 protein decreased and there was no change in NMDAR1, Homer1b/c, or PICK1 proteins. These changes were not observed in ventromedial prefrontal cortex or ventral tegmental area. In ventral tegmental area, Extinction training reversed the decreased postsynaptic density NMDAR1 protein in the Home and Box withdrawal groups. These data suggest that extinction of drug seeking is associated with selective glutamatergic plasticity in prefrontal cortex and ventral tegmental area that include modulation of receptor trafficking to postsynaptic density.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Self Administration
  • Time Factors
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / drug effects
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / metabolism
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*


  • Glutamic Acid
  • Cocaine