Blunted Cystine–Glutamate Antiporter Function in the Nucleus Accumbens Promotes Cocaine-induced Drug Seeking

Kristen S. Kau, Marquette University
Aric Madayag, Marquette University
John Mantsch, Marquette University
Mark D. Grier, Marquette University
Omer Abdulhameed, Marquette University
David A. Baker, Marquette University

Accepted version. Neuroscience, Vol. 155, No. 2 (August 2008): 530-537. DOI. © Elsevier 2008. Used with permission.

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Neuroscience. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Neuroscience, VOL 155, ISSUE 2, August 13, 2008. DOI.


Repeated cocaine alters glutamate neurotransmission, in part, by reducing cystine–glutamate exchange via system xc−, which maintains glutamate levels and receptor stimulation in the extrasynaptic compartment. In the present study, we undertook two approaches to determine the significance of plasticity involving system xc−. First, we examined whether the cysteine prodrug N-acetylcysteine attenuates cocaine-primed reinstatement by targeting system xc−. Rats were trained to self-administer cocaine (1 mg/kg/200 μl, i.v.) under extended access conditions (6 h/day). After extinction training, cocaine (10 mg/kg, i.p.) primed reinstatement was assessed in rats pretreated with N-acetylcysteine (0–60 mg/kg, i.p.) in the presence or absence of the system xc− inhibitor (S)-4-carboxyphenylglycine (CPG; 0.5 μM; infused into the nucleus accumbens). N-acetylcysteine attenuated cocaine-primed reinstatement, and this effect was reversed by co-administration of CPG. Secondly, we examined whether reduced system xc− activity is necessary for cocaine-primed reinstatement. To do this, we administered N-acetylcysteine (0 or 90 mg/kg, i.p.) prior to 12 daily self-administration sessions (1 mg/kg/200 μl, i.v.; 6 h/day) since this procedure has previously been shown to prevent reduced activity of system xc−. On the reinstatement test day, we then acutely impaired system xc− in some of the rats by infusing CPG (0.5 μM) into the nucleus accumbens. Rats that had received N-acetylcysteine prior to daily self-administration sessions exhibited diminished cocaine-primed reinstatement; this effect was reversed by infusing the cystine–glutamate exchange inhibitor CPG into the nucleus accumbens. Collectively these data establish system xc− in the nucleus accumbens as a key mechanism contributing to cocaine-primed reinstatement.