Background: Repeated cocaine exposure produces new spine formation in striatal projection neurons (SPNs) of the nucleus accumbens. However, an acute exposure to cocaine can trigger long-lasting synaptic plasticity in SPNs leading to behavioral alterations. This raises the intriguing question as to whether a single administration of cocaine could enduringly modify striatal connectivity.
Methods: A three-dimensional morphometric analysis of presynaptic glutamatergic boutons and dendritic spines was performed on SPNs 1 hour and 1 week after a single cocaine administration. Time-lapse two-photon microscopy in adult slices was used to determine the precise molecular-events sequence responsible for the rapid spine formation.
Results: A single injection triggered a rapid synaptogenesis and persistent increase in glutamatergic connectivity in SPNs from the shell part of the nucleus accumbens, specifically. Synapse formation occurred through clustered growth of active spines contacting pre-existing axonal boutons. Spine growth required extracellular signal-regulated kinase activation, while spine stabilization involved transcription-independent protein synthesis driven by mitogen-activated protein kinase interacting kinase-1, downstream from extracellular signal-regulated kinase. The maintenance of new spines driven by mitogen-activated protein kinase interacting kinase-1 was essential for long-term connectivity changes induced by cocaine in vivo.
Conclusions: Our study originally demonstrates that a single administration of cocaine is able to induce stable synaptic rewiring in the nucleus accumbens, which will likely influence responses to subsequent drug exposure. It also unravels a new functional role for cocaine-induced extracellular signal-regulated kinase pathway independently of nuclear targets. Finally, it reveals that mitogen-activated protein kinase interacting kinase-1 has a pivotal role in cocaine-induced connectivity.
Keywords: Cocaine; Dendritic spine; Extracellular signal-regulated kinase; MAP kinase interacting kinase; Striatum; Synaptogenesis.
Copyright © 2017 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.