Hypocretin-1 receptors regulate the reinforcing and reward-enhancing effects of cocaine: pharmacological and behavioral genetics evidence

Front Behav Neurosci. 2012 Jul 24;6:47. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2012.00047. eCollection 2012.


Considerable evidence suggests that transmission at hypocretin-1 (orexin-1) receptors (Hcrt-R1) plays an important role in the reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behaviors in rodents. However, far less is known about the role for hypocretin transmission in regulating ongoing cocaine-taking behavior. Here, we investigated the effects of the selective Hcrt-R1 antagonist SB-334867 on cocaine intake, as measured by intravenous (IV) cocaine self-administration in rats. The stimulatory effects of cocaine on brain reward systems contribute to the establishment and maintenance of cocaine-taking behaviors. Therefore, we also assessed the effects of SB-334867 on the reward-enhancing properties of cocaine, as measured by cocaine-induced lowering of intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) thresholds. Finally, to definitively establish a role for Hcrt-R1 in regulating cocaine intake, we assessed IV cocaine self-administration in Hcrt-R1 knockout mice. We found that SB-334867 (1-4 mg/kg) dose-dependently decreased cocaine (0.5 mg/kg/infusion) self-administration in rats but did not alter responding for food rewards under the same schedule of reinforcement. This suggests that SB-334867 decreased cocaine reinforcement without negatively impacting operant performance. SB-334867 (1-4 mg/kg) also dose-dependently attenuated the stimulatory effects of cocaine (10 mg/kg) on brain reward systems, as measured by reversal of cocaine-induced lowering of ICSS thresholds in rats. Finally, we found that Hcrt-R1 knockout mice self-administered far less cocaine than wildtype mice across the entire dose-response function. These data demonstrate that Hcrt-R1 play an important role in regulating the reinforcing and reward-enhancing properties of cocaine and suggest that hypocretin transmission is likely essential for establishing and maintaining the cocaine habit in human addicts.

Keywords: addiction; cocaine; hypocretin; intracranial self-stimulation; intravenous self-administration; knockout mice; orexin; reward.