Kappa opioid receptor activation potentiates the cocaine-induced increase in evoked dopamine release recorded in vivo in the mouse nucleus accumbens

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014 Dec;39(13):3036-48. doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.157. Epub 2014 Jun 27.


Behavioral stressors increase addiction risk in humans and increase the rewarding valence of drugs of abuse including cocaine, nicotine and ethanol in animal models. Prior studies have established that this potentiation of drug reward was mediated by stress-induced release of the endogenous dynorphin opioids and subsequent kappa opioid receptor (KOR) activation. In this study, we used in vivo fast scan cyclic voltammetry to test the hypothesis that KOR activation before cocaine administration might potentiate the evoked release of dopamine from ventral tegmental (VTA) synaptic inputs to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and thereby increase the rewarding valence of cocaine. The KOR agonist U50488 inhibited dopamine release evoked by either medial forebrain bundle (MFB) or pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPTg) activation of VTA inputs to the shell or core of the mouse NAc. Cocaine administration increased the dopamine response recorded in either the shell or core evoked by either MFB or PPTg stimulation. Administration of U50488 15 min before cocaine blocked the conditioned place preference (CPP) to cocaine, but only significantly reduced the effect of cocaine on the dopamine response evoked by PPTg stimulation to NAc core. In contrast, administration of U50488 60 min before cocaine significantly potentiated cocaine CPP and significantly increased the effects of cocaine on the dopamine response evoked by either MFB or PPTg stimulation, recorded in either NAc shell or core. Results of this study support the concept that stress-induced activation of KOR by endogenous dynorphin opioids may enhance the rewarding valence of drugs of abuse by potentiating the evoked dopamine response.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Dichloro-N-methyl-N-(2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-cyclohexyl)-benzeneacetamide, (trans)-Isomer / pharmacology
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / pharmacology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anesthetics, Local / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Male
  • Medial Forebrain Bundle / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / metabolism*
  • Reward
  • Time Factors


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa
  • 3,4-Dichloro-N-methyl-N-(2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-cyclohexyl)-benzeneacetamide, (trans)-Isomer
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine