Cocaine-responsive gene expression changes have been described after either no drug abstinence or short periods of abstinence. Little data exist on the persistence of these changes after long-term abstinence. Previously, we reported that after discrete-trial cocaine self-administration and 10 days of forced abstinence, incubation of cocaine reinforcement was observable by a progressive ratio schedule. The present study used rat discrete-trial cocaine self-administration and long-term forced abstinence to examine extinction responding, mRNA abundance of known cocaine-responsive genes, and chromatin remodeling. At 30 and 100 days of abstinence, extinction responding increased compared to 3-day abstinent rats. Decreases in both medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and nucleus accumbens c-fos, Nr4a1, Arc, and EGR1 mRNA were observed, and in most cases persisted, for 100 days of abstinence. The signaling peptides CART and neuropeptide Y (NPY) transiently increased in the mPFC, but returned to baseline levels following 10 days of abstinence. To investigate a potential regulatory mechanism for these persistent mRNA changes, levels of histone H3 acetylation at promoters for genes with altered mRNA expression were examined. In the mPFC, histone H3 acetylation decreased after 1 and 10 days of abstinence at the promoter for EGR1. H3 acetylation increased for NPY after 1 day of abstinence and returned to control levels by 10 days of abstinence. Behaviorally, these results demonstrate incubation after discrete-trial cocaine self-administration and prolonged forced abstinence. This incubation is accompanied by changes in gene expression that persist long after cessation of drug administration and may be regulated by chromatin remodeling.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health