Cocaine self-administration produces pharmacodynamic tolerance: differential effects on the potency of dopamine transporter blockers, releasers, and methylphenidate

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Jun;37(7):1708-16. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.17. Epub 2012 Mar 7.


The dopamine transporter (DAT) is the primary site of action for psychostimulant drugs such as cocaine, methylphenidate, and amphetamine. Our previous work demonstrated a reduced ability of cocaine to inhibit the DAT following high-dose cocaine self-administration (SA), corresponding to a reduced ability of cocaine to increase extracellular dopamine. However, this effect had only been demonstrated for cocaine. Thus, the current investigations sought to understand the extent to which cocaine SA (1.5 mg/kg/inf × 40 inf/day × 5 days) altered the ability of different dopamine uptake blockers and releasers to inhibit dopamine uptake, measured using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry in rat brain slices. We demonstrated that, similar to cocaine, the DAT blockers nomifensine and bupropion were less effective at inhibiting dopamine uptake following cocaine SA. The potencies of amphetamine-like dopamine releasers such as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, and phentermine, as well as a non-amphetamine releaser, 4-benzylpiperidine, were all unaffected. Finally, methylphenidate, which blocks dopamine uptake like cocaine while being structurally similar to amphetamine, shared characteristics of both, resembling an uptake blocker at low concentrations and a releaser at high concentrations. Combined, these experiments demonstrate that after high-dose cocaine SA, there is cross-tolerance of the DAT to other uptake blockers, but not releasers. The reduced ability of psychostimulants to inhibit dopamine uptake following cocaine SA appears to be contingent upon their functional interaction with the DAT as a pure blocker or releaser rather than their structural similarity to cocaine. Further, methylphenidate's interaction with the DAT is unique and concentration-dependent.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bupropion / pharmacology
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / pharmacology*
  • Nomifensine / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Self Administration


  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Bupropion
  • Nomifensine
  • Methylphenidate
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine