Relapse to drug use can be initiated by drug-associated cues. The intensity of cue-induced relapse is correlated with the induction of transient synaptic potentiation (t-SP) at glutamatergic synapses on medium spiny neurons (MSNs) in the nucleus accumbens core (NAcore) and requires spillover of glutamate from prefrontal cortical afferents. We used a rodent self-administration/ reinstatement model of relapse to show that cue-induced t-SP and reinstated cocaine seeking result from glutamate spillover, initiating a metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5)-dependent increase in nitric oxide (NO) production. Pharmacological stimulation of mGluR5 in NAcore recapitulated cue-induced reinstatement in the absence of drug-associated cues. Using NOsensitive electrodes, mGluR5 activation by glutamate was shown to stimulate NO production that depended on activation of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). nNOS is expressed in ~1% of NAcore neurons. Using a transgene strategy to express and stimulate designer receptors that mimicked mGluR5 signaling through Gq in nNOS interneurons, we recapitulated cue-induced reinstatement in the absence of cues. Conversely, using a transgenic caspase strategy, the intensity of cue-induced reinstatement was correlated with the extent of selective elimination of nNOS interneurons. The induction of t-SP during cued reinstatement depends on activating matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and selective chemogenetic stimulation of nNOS interneurons recapitulated MMP activation and t-SP induction (increase in AMPA currents in MSNs). These data demonstrate critical involvement of a sparse population of nNOS-expressing interneurons in cue-induced cocaine seeking, revealing a bottleneck in brain processing of drug-associated cues where therapeutic interventions could be effective in treating drug addiction.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (Grants DA003906, A012513, DA015369, and DA007135).
- Metabotropic glutamate receptor
- Nitric oxide