As with studies of synaptic plasticity, however, far more work is needed to systemically define the changes in dendritic spines that occur during a course of drug self-administration, withdrawal, and relapse. Studies to date, involving investigator- and self-administered drug, suggest very different spine changes occurring at different withdrawal time points and in NAc shell versus core subregions.83-86 It will also be important to define Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical the precise molecular
mechanisms by which cocaine or another stimulant produces these time-dependent and cell-type specific effects. ΔFosB has been shown to be both necessary and sufficient for the induction of immature spines on Dl-type NAc neurons.35,51,67 Such regulation occurs in concert with cocaine and ΔFosB regulation of several proteins known to control the reorganization of the actin
cytoskeleton. As just one example, transcriptional regulation of several guanine nucleotide Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical exchange factors and GTPase activating proteins poises Rac1, a small GTPase, for transient Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical decreases in activity in response to each cocaine exposure, and such pulsatile decreases in Rac1 activity have been shown, using optogenetic control of Rac1, to buy WZ4003 mediate induction of immature spines.87 These effects of Racl presumably occur through its control of cofilin and other actin regulatory proteins, which have also been shown to mediate cocaine regulation of spine growth.87,88 However, it is important
to emphasize that this is just one pathway involved in cocaine’s regulation of immature Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical spines, since several other proteins have been shown to play an essential role as well, including CDK5 (cyclin-dependent kinase-5), CaMKII, NFkB, MEF2, CREB, G9a, and DNMT3 (DNA methyltransf erase 3a), to name a few.20,21,35,51,67,89,90 Interestingly, cocaine regulation of several of these genes, including induction of CDK5, CaMKII, and NFkB, and repression of G9a, is also mediated via ΔFosB.20,35,51,91 Surprisingly, opiate drugs Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical of abuse exert the opposite effect and reduce dendritic spine density of NAc medium spiny neurons.81 Little is known about the behavioral consequences of this adaptation and the underlying TCL molecular mechanisms involved. This phenomenon is, however, surprising, given that CREB and ΔFosB are induced by both stimulants and opiates and are both implicated in stimulant-mediated induction of NAc dendritic spine density. This raises the question of how opiates suppress NAc spine density despite their induction of these factors. The other major form of morphological plasticity seen in drug abuse models is the physical reduction in cell soma size of VTA dopamine neurons induced by chronic opiate administration.77,92,93 A similar adaptation occurs in response to cannabinoids.