Methamphetamine (METH) abuse is personally and socially devastating. Although effects of METH on dopamine (DA) systems likely contribute to its highly addictive nature, no medications are approved to treat METH dependence. Thus, we and others have studied the METH-induced responses of neurotensin (NT) systems. NT is associated with inhibitory feedback action on DA projections, and NT levels are elevated in both the nucleus accumbens and dorsal striatum after noncontingent treatment with high doses of METH. In the present study, we used a METH self-administration (SA) model (linked to lever pressing) to demonstrate that substitution of an NT agonist for METH, while not significantly affecting motor activity, dramatically reduced lever pressing but was not self-administered per se. We also found that nucleus accumbens NT levels were elevated via a D1 mechanism after five sessions in rats self-administering METH (SAM), with a lesser effect in corresponding yoked rats. Extended (15 daily sessions) exposure to METH SA manifested similar NT responses; however, more detailed analyses revealed (i) 15 days of METH SA significantly elevated NT levels in the nucleus accumbens shell and dorsal striatum, but not the nucleus accumbens core, with a lesser effect in the corresponding yoked METH rats; (ii) the elevation of NT in both the nucleus accumbens shell and dorsal striatum significantly correlated with the total amount of METH received in the self-administering, but not the corresponding yoked METH rats; and (iii) an NT agonist blocked, but an NT antagonist did not alter, lever-pressing behavior on day 15 in SAM rats. After 5 days in SAM animals, NT levels were also elevated in the ventral tegmental area, but not frontal cortex of rats self-administering METH.
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