Differential Involvement of D2 and D3 Receptors During Reinstatement of Cocaine-Seeking Behavior in the Roman High- and Low- Avoidance Rats

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Roman high- (RHA) and low-avoidance (RLA) rats have been used as a model for drug-addiction, showing, respectively, high- and low-responding to psychostimulants, and low versus high dopamine D2/3 receptors (D2/3R) striatal density. Previous studies indicated a major involvement of D2/3R on reinstatement of cocaine seeking, although the respective role of the two receptor subtypes is not clear. Here, we investigated sensitivity to cocaine self-administration (SA) through a dose-response protocol in RHAs and RLAs, and reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior at 15 days and 5 weeks following withdrawal. Compared to RLAs, RHAs confirmed a higher vulnerability to cocaine SA that was not related to a difference in sensitivity to the drug, as highlighted by the dose-response analysis. Both at early and late withdrawal, RHAs showed higher susceptibility than RLAs to reinstatement of drug-seeking when cocaine was used as a primer, but the two sublines did not differ when primed with the D2/3R agonist quinpirole. Moreover, while the specific D2R antagonist L741,626 blocked, the specific D3R antagonist SB-277011A failed to impair cocaine-primed relapse. The higher vulnerability of RHA versus RLA rats to cocaine-primed relapse, which contrasts with their similar vulnerability to quinpirole-primed relapse, suggests that the different propensity of both sublines to relapse likely relies on presynaptic rather than postsynaptic mechanisms. Moreover, our study challenges the involvement of D3R in the mechanisms underlying relapse to cocaine addiction, at least in conditions that may involve high levels of dopaminergic stimulation, and supports a major role of postsynaptic D2R over D3R in the vulnerability to relapse.

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