Brain Res. 2006 May 23;1090(1):58-68.
Apart from activation of the brain reward system, cocaine administration influences the activity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis by affecting CRH neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN). In order to find a molecular mechanism of cocaine-evoked effects in the PVN, in the present study, we investigated the impact of cocaine on the expression of FosB/DeltaFosB transcription factors in the PVN. Using an immunohistochemical method, we found that acute cocaine treatment (25 mg/kg) induced a relatively long-lasting (at least 72 h) expression of FosB/DeltaFosB in the PVN, whereas repeated cocaine administration (25 mg/kg, once daily for 5 consecutive days) caused accumulation of FosB/DeltaFosB in the PVN.
The latter observation was further confirmed by the Western blot technique which revealed that repeated exposure to cocaine specifically increased the expression of a stable isoform of DeltaFosB (35 kDa). Using a double-labeling immunofluorescent method, it was established that FosB/DeltaFosB proteins induced by repeated cocaine treatment were present in a small population of CRF-immunoreactive neurons of the PVN. Furthermore, it was found that pretreatment with the specific antagonist of dopamine D1-like receptors SCH 23390 (1 mg/kg) attenuated the expression and accumulation of FosB/DeltaFosB in the PVN, evoked by repeated cocaine administration. Although functional consequences of the above effects for the process of addiction remain to be established, the obtained results indicate that cocaine administration can produce relatively long-lasting changes in the expression of FosB/DeltaFosB transcription factors in PVN neurons (in some populations of CRF-immunoreactive neurons, among others) and that dopamine D1-like receptors are involved in the above effects. Finally, it is proposed that the long-lasting expression as well as the accumulation of DeltaFosB in the PVN may constitute a molecular basis underlying adaptive changes occurring in the HPA axis after relatively high doses of cocaine.