Fos expression induced by cocaine-conditioned cues in male and female rats

Brain Struct Funct. 2014 Sep;219(5):1831-40. doi: 10.1007/s00429-013-0605-8. Epub 2013 Jul 6.


Previous studies have shown that female rats exhibit different patterns of drug seeking during multiple phases of cocaine addiction when compared with males. However, the underlying mechanisms for these sex differences remain largely unknown. Here, we used a cocaine self-administration/reinstatement model to examine neuronal activation, as determined by Fos expression, following cue-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking in male and female rats. Fos expression revealed both similarities between sexes in some brain regions, as well as selective sexually dimorphic patterns. As compared to no cue control subjects, conditioned cues induced higher Fos expression in the Cg1 region of the anterior cingulate cortex, but lower expression in the nucleus accumbens in both males and females. Females exhibited higher Fos expression than males in multiple brain regions, including the agranular insular cortex, dorsal medial caudate-putamen, nucleus accumbens shell, ventral tegmental area, dorsal subiculum, and ventral CA1 and CA3 regions of the hippocampus. Notably, only Fos expression in the prelimbic cortex, nucleus accumbens shell, basolateral amygdala, and ventral subiculum correlated positively with lever responding in response to conditioned cues across males and females. These findings indicate that while sexually dimorphic Fos activation does occur, the relationship between cue-induced cocaine seeking and neuronal activation may be similar for males and females in key brain regions of the relapse circuit.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects*
  • Cues*
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Oncogene Proteins v-fos / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Self Administration
  • Sex Factors


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Oncogene Proteins v-fos
  • Cocaine