MiR-9, miR-153 and miR-124 are down-regulated by acute exposure to cocaine in a dopaminergic cell model and may contribute to cocaine dependence

Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 30;8(1):173. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0224-5.


Cocaine is one of the most used psychostimulant drugs worldwide. MicroRNAs are post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression that are highly expressed in brain, and several studies have shown that cocaine can alter their expression. In a previous study, we identified several protein-coding genes that are differentially expressed in a dopaminergic neuron-like model after an acute exposure to cocaine. Now, we used the prediction tool WebGestalt to identify miRNA molecules potentially involved in the regulation of these genes. Using the same cellular model, we found that seven of these miRNAs are down-regulated by cocaine: miR-124-3p, miR-124-5p, miR-137, miR-101-3p, miR-9-5p, miR-369-3p and miR-153-3p, the last three not previously related to cocaine. Furthermore, we found that three of the miRNA genes that are differentially expressed in our model (hsa-miR-9-1, hsa-miR-153-1 and hsa-miR-124-3) are nominally associated with cocaine dependence in a case-control study (2,085 cases and 4,293 controls). In summary, we highlighted novel miRNAs that may be involved in those cocaine-induced changes of gene expression that underlie addiction. Moreover, we identified genetic variants that contribute to cocaine dependence in three of these miRNA genes, supporting the idea that genes differentially expressed under cocaine may play an important role in the susceptibility to cocaine dependence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / genetics
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / drug effects*
  • Down-Regulation
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*


  • MIRN124 microRNA, human
  • MIRN153 microRNA, human
  • MIRN92 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Cocaine