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Cocaine effects on mouse incentive-learning and human addiction are linked to a2 subunit-containing GABAA receptors

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 18:33 authored by Claire Dixon, Hannah V Morris, Gerome Breen, Sylvane Desrivieres, Sarah Jugurnauth, Rebecca C Steiner, Homero Vallada, Camila Guindalini, Ronaldo Laranjeira, Guilherme Messas, Thomas W Rosahl, John R Atack, Dianne R Peden, Delia Belelli, Jeremy J Lambert, Sarah KingSarah King, Gunter Schumann, David N Stephens
Because GABAA receptors containing a2 subunits are highly represented in areas of the brain, such as nucleus accumbens (NAcc), frontal cortex, and amygdala, regions intimately involved in signaling motivation and reward, we hypothesized that manipulations of this receptor subtype would influence processing of rewards. Voltage-clamp recordings from NAcc medium spiny neurons of mice with a2 gene deletion showed reduced synaptic GABAA receptor-mediated responses. Behaviorally, the deletion abolished cocaine’s ability to potentiate behaviors conditioned to rewards (conditioned reinforcement), and to support behavioral sensitization. In mice with a point mutation in the benzodiazepine binding pocket of a2-GABAA receptors (a2H101R), GABAergic neurotransmission in medium spiny neurons was identical to that of WT (i.e., the mutation was silent), but importantly, receptor function was now facilitated by the atypical benzodiazepine Ro 15-4513 (ethyl 8-amido-5,6-dihydro-5-methyl-6-oxo-4H-imidazo [1,5-a] [1,4] benzodiazepine-3-carboxylate). In a2H101R, but not WT mice, Ro 15-4513 administered directly into the NAcc-stimulated locomotor activity, and when given systemically and repeatedly, induced behavioral sensitization. These data indicate that activation of a2-GABAA receptors (most likely in NAcc) is both necessary and sufficient for behavioral sensitization. Consistent with a role of these receptors in addiction, we found specific markers and haplotypes of the GABRA2 gene to be associated with human cocaine addiction.


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  • Published


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences




National Academy of Sciences





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  • Biochemistry Publications

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