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Nature Publishing Group (Macmillan Publishers Limited)

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The mechanisms by which stressful life events increase the risk of relapse in recovering cocaine addicts are not well understood. We previously reported that stress, via elevated corticosterone, potentiates cocaine-primed reinstatement of cocaine seeking following self-administration in rats and that this potentiation appears to involve corticosterone-induced blockade of dopamine clearance via the organic cation transporter 3 (OCT3). In the present study, we use a conditioned place preference/reinstatement paradigm in mice to directly test the hypothesis that corticosterone potentiates cocaine-primed reinstatement by blockade of OCT3. Consistent with our findings following self-administration in rats, pretreatment of male C57/BL6 mice with corticosterone (using a dose that reproduced stress-level plasma concentrations) potentiated cocaine-primed reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-induced conditioned place preference. Corticosterone failed to re-establish extinguished preference alone but produced a leftward shift in the dose–response curve for cocaine-primed reinstatement. A similar potentiating effect was observed upon pretreatment of mice with the non-glucocorticoid OCT3 blocker, normetanephrine. To determine the role of OCT3 blockade in these effects, we examined the abilities of corticosterone and normetanephrine to potentiate cocaine-primed reinstatement in OCT3-deficient and wild-type mice. Conditioned place preference, extinction and reinstatement of extinguished preference in response to low-dose cocaine administration did not differ between genotypes. However, corticosterone and normetanephrine failed to potentiate cocaine-primed reinstatement in OCT3-deficient mice. Together, these data provide the first direct evidence that the interaction of corticosterone with OCT3 mediates corticosterone effects on drug-seeking behavior and establish OCT3 function as an important determinant of susceptibility to cocaine use.


Accepted version. Neuropsychopharmacology, Vol. 42, No. 3 (February 2017): 757-765. DOI. © 2017 Nature Publishing Group (Macmillan Publishers Limited). Used with permission.

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