Mast cells are located in the central nervous system (CNS) of many mammals and stress induces their degranulation. We postulated that mast cells are associated with wakefulness and stimulatory tone in the CNS, as reflected by spontaneous motor activity. Because stress also precipitates drug-seeking behavior in cocaine addicts, we also postulated that cocaine manifests its effects through this relationship. We investigated the influence of single and repeated injections of cocaine on circulating corticosterone, motor activity and degranulation of mast cells in both the thalamus and meninges of mice. Mice were subjected to 5 consecutive days of cocaine or saline followed by a single injection of cocaine or saline 11 days later. Spontaneous locomotor activity was measure for 1 h after the final injection before death. Neither a single injection nor prior treatment with cocaine increased motor activity compared to saline-injected controls, however, repeated administration of cocaine induced a significant sensitization to its behavioral effect when delivered 11 days later. In mice that received only saline, motor activity correlated positively with mast cell degranulation in the meninges but not in the thalamus. Cocaine, regardless of the treatment schedule, disrupted this correlation. The concentration of corticosterone did not differ amongst groups and did not correlate with either behavior or mast cell parameters in any group. The correlation between behavioral activity and the mast cell degranulation in the meninges suggests that these parameters are linked. The disruptive effect of cocaine on this relationship indicates a role downstream from mast cells in the regulation of motor activity.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by grant #05-24 from the University of Minnesota Academic Health Sciences , a grant from NIH from the National Institutes on Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases [ AT056092 ], and by a grant from the University of Minnesota Graduate School . The authors would like to thank Paul R. Larson for his excellent technical expertise and tireless assistance in the preparation of the many histological sections for these studies.
- Mast cell
- Spontaneous locomotor activity