Brain imaging studies using positron emission tomography (PET) have shown that long-term cocaine use is associated with lower levels of dopamine (DA) D2/D3 receptors (D2/D3R); less consistent are the effects on DA transporter (DAT) availability. However, most studies have been conducted in male subjects (humans, monkeys, rodents). In this study, we used PET imaging in nine drug-naïve female cynomolgus monkeys to determine if baseline measures of DAT, with [18F]FECNT, and D2/D3R availability, with [11C]raclopride, in the caudate nucleus, putamen and ventral striatum were associated with rates of cocaine self-administration and if these measures changed during long-term (~13 months) cocaine self-administration and following time-off (3–9 months) from cocaine. Cocaine (0.2 mg/kg/injection) and 1.0 g food pellets were available under a multiple fixed-interval (FI) 3-min schedule of reinforcement. In contrast to what has been observed in male monkeys, baseline D2/D3R availability was positively correlated with rates of cocaine self-administration only during the first week of exposure; DAT availability did not correlate with cocaine self-administration. D2/D3R availability decreased ~20% following cumulative intakes of 100 and 1000 mg/kg cocaine; DAT availability did not significantly change. These reductions in D2/D3R availability did not recover over 9 months of time-off from cocaine. To determine if these reductions were reversible, three monkeys were implanted with osmotic pumps that delivered raclopride for 30 days. We found that chronic treatment with the D2/D3R antagonist raclopride increased D2/D3R availability in the ventral striatum but not in the other regions when compared to baseline levels. Over 13 months of self-administration, tolerance did not develop to the rate-decreasing effects of self-administered cocaine on food-reinforced responding, but number of injections and cocaine intake significantly increased over the 13 months. These data extend previous findings to female monkeys and suggest sex differences in the relationship between D2/D3R availability related to vulnerability and long-term cocaine use.
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We would like to thank Michael Rowe, Michelle Bell, Lorne Kerley and Stephanie Rideout for excellent technical assistance and Dr. Leonard Howell for coordinating the [18F]FECNT PET studies. This research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant DA017763.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Allen, M.I., Duke, A.N., Nader, S.H. et al. PET imaging of dopamine transporters and D2/D3 receptors in female monkeys: effects of chronic cocaine self-administration. Neuropsychopharmacol. 48, 1436–1445 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-023-01622-3
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