Researchers identify molecular mechanism by which cocaine alters brain's reward circuits, causes addiction

Published on January 21, 2014 at 12:08 AM · No Comments

Next, the investigators used chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing to identify which genes are altered through the epigenetic changes induced by PARP-1. One target gene whose expression changed after chronic cocaine use was sidekick-1, a cell adhesion molecule concentrated at synapses that directs synaptic connections. Sidekick-1 has not been studied to date in the brain, nor has it been studied in relation to cocaine exposure. Using viral mediated gene transfer to overexpress sidekick-1 in the nucleus accumbens, investigators saw that this overexpression alone not only increased the rewarding effects of cocaine, but it also induced changes in the morphology and synaptic connections of neurons in this brain reward region.

The research opens the door to a brand new direction for therapeutics to treat cocaine addiction. Effective drug therapies are urgently needed. National data from the US National Institute of Drug Abuse reveal that nearly 1.4 million Americans meet criteria for dependence or abuse of cocaine.

Source: The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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