Oxytocin reduces cocaine seeking and reverses chronic cocaine-induced changes in glutamate receptor function

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 Oct 31;18(1):pyu009. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyu009.


Background: Oxytocin, a neurohypophyseal neuropeptide, is a potential mediator and regulator of drug addiction. However, the cellular mechanisms of oxytocin in drug seeking remain unknown.

Methods: In the present study, we used a self-administration/reinstatement model to study the effects of oxytocin on cocaine seeking and its potential interaction with glutamate function at the receptor level.

Results: Systemic oxytocin dose-dependently reduced cocaine self-administration during various schedules of reinforcement, including fixed ratio 1, fixed ratio 5, and progressive ratio. Oxytocin also attenuated reinstatement to cocaine seeking induced by cocaine prime or conditioned cues. Western-blot analysis indicated that oxytocin increased phosphorylation of the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid-type glutamate receptor GluA1 subunit at the Ser 845 site with or without accompanying increases in phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase, in several brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, amygdala, and dorsal hippocampus. Immunoprecipitation of oxytocin receptor and GluA1 subunit receptors further demonstrated a physical interaction between these 2 receptors, although the interaction was not influenced by chronic cocaine or oxytocin treatment. Oxytocin also attenuated sucrose seeking in a GluA1- or extracellular-signal-regulated kinase-independent manner.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that oxytocin mediates cocaine seeking through interacting with glutamate receptor systems via second messenger cascades in mesocorticolimbic regions.

Keywords: cocaine; glutamate receptor; oxytocin; reinstatement; self-administration..

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Central Nervous System Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Dietary Sucrose / administration & dosage
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / drug effects*
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / physiology
  • Extinction, Psychological / drug effects
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Male
  • Oxytocin / pharmacology*
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism*
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Self Administration


  • Central Nervous System Agents
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Oxytocin
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases
  • Cocaine
  • glutamate receptor ionotropic, AMPA 1