Effects of repeated cocaine exposure and withdrawal on voluntary ethanol drinking, and the expression of glial glutamate transporters in mesocorticolimbic system of P rats

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Abstract

Glutamatergic neurotransmission within the brain's reward circuits plays a major role in the reinforcing properties of both ethanol and cocaine. Glutamate homeostasis is regulated by several glutamate transporters, including glutamate transporter type 1 (GLT-1), cystine/glutamate transporter (xCT), and glutamate aspartate transporter (GLAST). Cocaine exposure has been shown to induce a dysregulation in glutamate homeostasis and a decrease in the expression of GLT-1 and xCT in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). In this study, alcohol preferring (P) rats were exposed to free-choice of ethanol (15% and 30%) and/or water for five weeks. On Week 6, rats were administered (i.p.) cocaine (10 and 20 mg/kg) or saline for 12 consecutive days. This study tested two groups of rats: the first group was euthanized after seven days of repeated cocaine i.p. injection, and the second group was deprived from cocaine for five days and euthanized at Day 5 after cocaine withdrawal. Only repeated cocaine (20 mg/kg, i.p.) exposure decreased ethanol intake from Day 3 through Day 8. Co-exposure of cocaine and ethanol decreased the relative mRNA expression and the expression of GLT-1 in the NAc but not in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Importantly, co-exposure of cocaine and ethanol decreased relative expression of xCT in the NAc but not in the mPFC. Our findings demonstrated that chronic cocaine exposure affects ethanol intake; and ethanol and cocaine co-abuse alters the expression of glial glutamate transporters.

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