Eur J Neurosci. 2006 Sep;24(6):1733-43.
Cocaine addiction is an enduring, relapsing, behavioural disorder in which stressors reinstate cocaine-seeking even after prolonged abstinence. Evidence suggests that the ‘anxiety-like’ behaviour and stress associated with protracted withdrawal may be mediated by increased corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), a part of the limbic circuitry engaged in the coding and transmission of stimulus-reward associations. In the present study we describe a long-lasting potentiation of glutamatergic transmission induced at lateral amygdala (LA)-to-CeA synapses by rat/human CRF. After 2 weeks of withdrawal from repeated intermittent exposure to cocaine, CRF-induced long-term potentiation (LTP) was greatly enhanced compared to the respective saline control group while, after short-term withdrawal (24 h), there was no significant difference between the two treatment groups, indicating alterations in CRF systems during protracted withdrawal from chronic cocaine. After prolonged withdrawal, CRF-induced LTP was dependent on activation of CRF2, CaV2.3 (R-type) calcium channels and intracellular signalling through protein kinase C in both saline- and cocaine-treated groups. The enhanced CRF-induced LTP after 2 weeks of withdrawal was mediated through augmented CRF1 receptor function, associated with an increased signalling through protein kinase A, and required N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Accordingly, single-cell recordings revealed a significantly increased NMDA/AMPA ratio after prolonged withdrawal from the cocaine treatment. These results support a role for CRF1 receptor antagonists as plausible treatment options during withdrawal from chronic cocaine and suggest Ca(V)2.3 blockers as potential candidates for pharmaceutical modulation of CRF systems.