Alterations in serotonergic responsiveness during cocaine withdrawal in rats: similarities to major depression in humans
Baumann MH, Rothman RB
Clinical Psychopharmacology Section,
National Institute on Drug Abuse,
National Institutes of Health,
Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA.
Biol Psychiatry 1998 Oct 1; 44(7):578-91


BACKGROUND: Withdrawal from long-term cocaine use is accompanied by symptoms resembling major depression. Because acute cocaine affects serotonin (5-HT) neurons, and 5-HT dysfunction is implicated in the pathophysiology of depression, we evaluated the effects to 5-HT agonists in rats withdrawn from repeated injections of cocaine (15 mg/kg i.p., b.i.d., 7 days) or saline. METHODS: In the first study, prolactin (PRL) responses elicited by the 5-HT-releasing agent fenfluramine, the 5-HT1A agonist (+/-)-8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin (8-OH-DPAT), and the 5-HT2A/2C agonist (+/-)-1-(2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenyl)-2-aminopropane hydrochloride (DOI) were examined as indices of postsynaptic 5-HT receptor function. In a second study, specific responses induced by 8-OH-DPAT, namely inhibition of brain 5-HT synthesis and stimulation of feeding, were examined as correlates of 5-HT1A autoreceptor function. RESULTS: Prior treatment with cocaine did not modify fenfluramine-evoked PRL release; however, the PRL secretory response to 8-OH-DPAT was blunted and the PRL response to DOI was potentiated after chronic cocaine treatment. Cocaine exposure did not alter the inhibitory effect of 8-OH-DPAT on 5-HT synthesis. 8-OH-DPAT-induced feeding was influenced by prior cocaine, but this effect was secondary to pronounced baseline hyperphagia in the cocaine-treated group. CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that withdrawal from chronic cocaine renders specific subpopulations of postsynaptic 5-HT1A receptors subsensitive and 5-HT2A/2C receptors supersensitive. No evidence for cocaine-induced changes in 5-HT1A autoreceptor responsiveness was found. A survey of the literature reveals similarities in the profile of 5-HT dysfunction between rats withdrawn from cocaine and humans diagnosed with depression. We propose that withdrawal from chronic cocaine in rats may serve as a useful animal model of depressive disorders.
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