Transcriptional signatures in prefrontal cortex confer vulnerability versus resilience to food and cocaine addiction-like behavior

Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 27;11(1):9076. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-88363-9.


Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive reward-seeking despite harmful consequences. The mechanisms underlying addiction are orchestrated by transcriptional reprogramming in the reward system of vulnerable subjects. This study aims at revealing gene expression alterations across different types of addiction. We analyzed publicly available transcriptome datasets of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) from a palatable food and a cocaine addiction study. We found 56 common genes upregulated in the PFC of addicted mice in these two studies, whereas most of the differentially expressed genes were exclusively linked to either palatable food or cocaine addiction. Gene ontology analysis of shared genes revealed that these genes contribute to learning and memory, dopaminergic synaptic transmission, and histone phosphorylation. Network analysis of shared genes revealed a protein-protein interaction node among the G protein-coupled receptors (Drd2, Drd1, Adora2a, Gpr6, Gpr88) and downstream targets of the cAMP signaling pathway (Ppp1rb1, Rgs9, Pde10a) as a core network in addiction. Upon extending the analysis to a cell-type specific level, some of these common molecular players were selectively expressed in excitatory neurons, oligodendrocytes, and endothelial cells. Overall, computational analysis of publicly available whole transcriptome datasets provides new insights into the molecular basis of addiction-like behaviors in PFC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cocaine / pharmacology
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / genetics*
  • Cyclic AMP / genetics
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Databases, Factual
  • Food Addiction / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation* / drug effects
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mice
  • Phosphorylation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / genetics


  • Histones
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Cocaine