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NIDA research shines light on a potential target for cocaine addiction

Science Spotlight

March 26, 2013

NIDA research published January 17 in Cell provides insight into the mechanism of action of the Sigma-1 receptor (Sig-1R), a protein located inside brain nerve cells that has long been suspected of contributing to the persistent, harmful effects of chronic cocaine use. The mouse study showed that cocaine caused Sig-1R to move from the inside of a neuron to its surface. This major molecular relocation resulted in increased interaction between Sig-1R and Kv1.2 -- a potassium channel protein -- in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain linked to reward processing.  Because potassium channels decrease neuronal excitability, increased Sig-1R/Kv1.2 interactions in the nucleus accumbens could result in enhanced responsiveness to cocaine (behavioral sensitization).  Such increased rewarding properties of cocaine could contribute to the development of addiction.

The study, co-authored by NIDA Scientific Director Dr. Antonello Bonci, could mark the beginning of new discoveries that bring us closer to discovering novel medications for addiction and other neurodegenerative or psychiatric disorders.

For a copy of the study abstract, go to http://www.cell.com/abstract/S0092-8674%2812%2901491-2. For more information on NIDA’s Intramural Research Program, go to http://irp.drugabuse.gov/.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245.


Contact:
NIDA Press Office
301-443-6245
media@nida.nih.gov

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy and improve practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home page at www.drugabuse.gov. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA's new DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or fax or email requests to 240-645-0227 or drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA's media guide can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide, and its new easy-to-read website can be found at www.easyread.drugabuse.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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This page was last updated March 2013

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