Long-lasting up-regulation of orexin receptor type 2 protein levels in the rat nucleus accumbens after chronic cocaine administration

Guo Chi Zhang, Li Min Mao, Xian Yu Liu, John Q. Wang

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43 Scopus citations


Hypothalamic orexin (hypocretin) neurons project to the key structures of the limbic system and orexin receptors, both orexin receptor type 1 (OXR1) and type 2 (OXR2), are expressed in most limbic regions. Emerging evidence suggests that orexin is among important neurotransmitters that regulate addictive properties of drugs of abuse. In this study, we examined the effect of psychostimulant cocaine on orexin receptor protein abundance in the rat limbic system in vivo. Intermittent administration of cocaine (20 mg/kg, i.p., once daily for 5 days) caused a typical behavioral sensitization response to a challenge cocaine injection at a 14-day withdrawal period. Repeated cocaine administration at the same withdrawal time also increased OXR2 protein levels in the nucleus accumbens while repeated cocaine had no effect on OXR1 and orexin neuropeptide (both orexin-A and orexin-B) levels in this region. In contrast to the nucleus accumbens, OXR2 levels in the frontal cortex, the ventral tegmental area, the hippocampus, and the dorsal striatum (caudate putamen) were not altered by cocaine. Remarkably, the up-regulated OXR2 levels in the nucleus accumbens showed a long-lasting nature as it persisted up to 60 days after the discontinuation of repeated cocaine treatments. In contrast to chronic cocaine administration, an acute cocaine injection was insufficient to modify levels of any orexin receptor and peptide. Our data identify the up-regulation of OXR2 in the nucleus accumbens as an enduring molecular event that is correlated well with behavioral plasticity in response to chronic psychostimulant administration. This OXR2 up-regulation may reflect a key adaptation of limbic orexinergic transmission to chronic drug exposure and may thus be critical for the expression of motor plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-407
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Behavioral sensitization
  • Caudate
  • Dopamine
  • Frontal cortex
  • Hippocampus
  • Hypocretin
  • Striatum
  • Ventral tegmental area


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