Preclinical and clinical studies indicate that females are more vulnerable to relapse than males, and the neurobiological effects of estrogen are thought to mediate, in part, the sex differences in cocaine-taking behavior. The goal of the present study was to investigate the involvement of estrogen receptor α (ERα) and β (ERβ) in estrogen-mediated increases in cocaine-induced reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior in ovariectomized (OVX) female rats. Rats were initially trained to self-administer cocaine (0.4 mg/kg/inf, i.v.) under a fixed-ratio 1 (FR 1) schedule of reinforcement during daily 2-h sessions. After a 10-day maintenance period, cocaine solutions were replaced with saline, and self-administration was extinguished over a 14-day period. OVX rats were then treated with either the mixed ERα/β agonist estradiol benzoate (EB), the ERα-selective agonist, propyl-pyrazole-triol (PPT), the ERβ-selective agonist, diarylpropionitrile (DPN), or a vehicle control (dimethyl sulfoxide, DMSO). Treatment lasted a total of 9 days, and during this time, rats were assessed for nonreinforced reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior after priming injections of saline or cocaine (5, 10, or 15 mg/kg, i.p.). OVX rats showed no differences in self-administration during maintenance or extinction. OVX rats treated with EB exhibited greater responding for cocaine during reinstatement compared to OVX+DMSO controls. Selective activation of ERβ with DPN also increased cocaine-induced reinstatement responding, whereas selective activation of ERα with PPT did not affect cocaine-seeking behavior. These results indicate that estrogen influences the propensity for reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior, and that estrogen-mediated enhancement of cocaine-induced reinstatement responding involves the activation of ERβ.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by NIDA Grants R01 DA03240 and K05 DA15267 (MEC). We thank Dr Jennifer Newman, Dr Jennifer Perry, and Justin Anker for their critical review of this manuscript, Danielle Johansson for her technical assistance, and Diana Freeman from Research Animal Resources at the University of Minnesota for her veterinary assistance.
- Estrogen receptors