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Serotonin vs. cocaine addiction

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Synaptic mechanism underlying serotonin modulation of transition to cocaine addiction



Compulsive drug use despite adverse consequences defines addiction. While mesolimbic dopamine signaling is sufficient to drive compulsion, psychostimulants such as cocaine also boost extracellular serotonin (5-HT) by inhibiting reuptake. We used SERT Met172 knockin (SertKI) mice carrying a transporter that no longer binds cocaine to abolish 5-HT transients during drug self-administration. SertKI mice showed an enhanced transition to compulsion. Conversely, pharmacologically elevating 5-HT reversed the inherently high rate of compulsion transition with optogenetic dopamine self-stimulation. The bidirectional effect on behavior is explained by presynaptic depression of orbitofrontal cortex–to–dorsal striatum synapses induced by 5-HT via 5-HT1B receptors. Consequently, in projection-specific 5-HT1B receptor knockout mice, the fraction of individuals compulsively self-administering cocaine was elevated. Prevention of compulsive cocaine taking Over time, about 20% of chronic cocaine users lose control and become addicted. There are indications that the differential efficacy of the brain serotonin (5-HT) system may be involved in the vulnerability to drug addiction. However, the relevant circuits and underlying cellular processes remain elusive. Li et al. discovered a synaptic mechanism in mice that underlies the modulatory role of 5-HT in reducing the likelihood of transition to compulsion and eventually addiction (see the Perspective by Miyazaki and Miyazaki). Cocaine binds to 5-HT transporters to block 5-HT reuptake. The elevated extracellular 5-HT activates 5-HT1B receptors and causes presynaptic depression of a projection from the orbitofrontal cortex to the dorsal striatum. These changes reduce the likelihood of inducing postsynaptic potentiation at these synapses, which ultimately drives compulsion. —PRS



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