Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist, exendin-4, reduces reinstatement of heroin-seeking behavior in rats

Joaquin E. Douton, Corinne Augusto, Brooke Stoltzfus, Nurgul Carkaci-Salli, Kent E. Vrana, Patricia "Sue" Grigson-Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Opioid use disorder (OUD) causes the death of nearly 130 Americans daily. It is evident that new avenues for treatment are needed. To this end, studies have reported that 'satiety' agents such as the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonist, exendin-4 (Ex-4), decreases responding for addictive drugs such as cocaine, nicotine, alcohol, and oxycodone, but no work has been done with heroin. In this study, we used a reward devaluation model in which rats avoid ingesting a saccharin solution that predicts drug availability to test the effects of 2.4 μg/kg Ex-4 on responding for a natural reward cue (i.e., saccharin) and on cue- and drug-induced heroin seeking. The results showed that treatment with Ex-4 during the 16-day abstinence period and on the test day decreased cue-induced heroin seeking. Drug-induced heroin seeking also was reduced by Ex-4, but only when using a 1 h, but not a 6 h, pretreatment time. Treatment with Ex-4 did not alter intake of the saccharin cue when the drug was on board, but a history of treatment with Ex-4 increased acceptance of the saccharin cue in later extinction trials. Finally, treatment with Ex-4 did not alter body weight, but was associated with increased Orexin 1 receptor (OX1) mRNA expression in the nucleus accumbens shell. Taken together, these findings are the first to show that treatment with a GLP-1R agonist can reduce both cue-induced seeking and drug-induced reinstatement of heroin seeking. As such, a GLP-1R agonist may serve as an effective treatment for OUD in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-277
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioural Pharmacology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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