Document Type




Format of Original

11 p.

Publication Date



Society for Neuroscience

Source Publication

The Journal of Neuroscience

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1969-13.2013


Stressful life events are important contributors to relapse in recovering cocaine addicts, but the mechanisms by which they influence motivational systems are poorly understood. Studies suggest that stress may “set the stage” for relapse by increasing the sensitivity of brain reward circuits to drug-associated stimuli. We examined the effects of stress and corticosterone on behavioral and neurochemical responses of rats to a cocaine prime after cocaine self-administration and extinction. Exposure of rats to acute electric footshock stress did not by itself reinstate drug-seeking behavior but potentiated reinstatement in response to a subthreshold dose of cocaine. This effect of stress was not observed in adrenalectomized animals, and was reproduced in nonstressed animals by administration of corticosterone at a dose that reproduced stress-induced plasma levels. Pretreatment with the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist RU38486 did not block the corticosterone effect. Corticosterone potentiated cocaine-induced increases in extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), and pharmacological blockade of NAc dopamine receptors blocked corticosterone-induced potentiation of reinstatement. Intra-accumbens administration of corticosterone reproduced the behavioral effects of stress and systemic corticosterone. Corticosterone treatment acutely decreased NAc dopamine clearance measured by fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, suggesting that inhibition of uptake2-mediated dopamine clearance may underlie corticosterone effects. Consistent with this hypothesis, intra-accumbens administration of the uptake2 inhibitor normetanephrine potentiated cocaine-induced reinstatement. Expression of organic cation transporter 3, a corticosterone-sensitive uptake2 transporter, was detected on NAc neurons. These findings reveal a novel mechanism by which stress hormones can rapidly regulate dopamine signaling and contribute to the impact of stress on drug intake.


Published Version. Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 33, No. 29 (July 2013): 11800-11810. DOI. © 2013 Society for Neuroscience. Used with permission.