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Nature Publishing Group (Macmillan Publishers Limited)
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Understanding the neurobiological processes that contribute to the establishment and expression of stress-induced regulation of cocaine use in addicted individuals is important for the development of new and better treatment approaches. It has been previously shown that rats self-administering cocaine under long-access conditions (6 h daily) display heightened susceptibility to the reinstatement of extinguished cocaine seeking by a stressor, electric footshock, or i.c.v. administration of the stressor-responsive neuropeptide, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). This study tested the hypothesis that adrenal responsiveness during earlier long-access cocaine self-administration (SA) is necessary for the establishment of later CRF-dependent stress-induced reinstatement. Reinstatement by footshock, but not a cocaine challenge (10 mg/kg, i.p.) following long-access SA, was blocked by i.c.v. administration of the CRF receptor antagonist, α-helical CRF9−41 (10 μg). Elimination of SA-induced adrenal responses through surgical adrenalectomy and diurnal corticosterone replacement (ADX/C) before 14 days of SA under long-access conditions had minimal impact on cocaine SA, but blocked later footshock-induced reinstatement. By contrast, ADX/C after SA, but before extinction and reinstatement testing, failed to reduce footshock-induced reinstatement. Likewise, ADX/C before 14 days long-access SA prevented later reinstatement by i.c.v. CRF (0.5 or 1.0 μg). However, significant CRF-induced reinstatement was observed when rats underwent ADX/C following SA, but before extinction and reinstatement testing, although a modest but statistically nonsignificant reduction in sensitivity to CRF's reinstating effects was observed. Taken together, these findings suggest that adrenal-dependent neuroadaptations in CRF responsiveness underlie the increased susceptibility to stress-induced relapse that emerges with repeated cocaine use.