A role for sigma receptors in stimulant self-administration and addiction

Jonathan L. Katz, Weimin C. Hong, Takato Hiranita, Tsung Ping Su

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Sigma-1 receptors (σ1Rs) are structurally unique intracellular proteins that function as chaperones. σ1Rs translocate from the mitochondria-associated membrane to other subcellular compartments, and can influence a host of targets, including ion channels, G-protein-coupled receptors, lipids, and other signaling proteins. Drugs binding to σRs can induce or block the actions of σRs. Studies indicate that stimulant self-administration induces the reinforcing effects of σR agonists, because of dopamine transporter actions. Once established, the reinforcing effects of σR agonists are independent of dopaminergic mechanisms traditionally thought to be critical to the reinforcing effects of stimulants. Self-administered doses of σR agonists do not increase dopamine concentrations in the nucleus accumbens shell, a transmitter and brain region considered important for the reinforcing effects of abused drugs. However, self-administration of σR agonists is blocked by σR antagonists. Several effects of stimulants have been blocked by σR antagonists, including the reinforcing effects, assessed by a place-conditioning procedure. However, the self-administration of stimulants is largely unaffected by σR antagonists, indicating fundamental differences in the mechanisms underlying these two procedures used to assess the reinforcing effects. When σR antagonists are administered in combination with dopamine uptake inhibitors, an effective and specific blockade of stimulant self-administration is obtained. Actions of stimulant drugs related to their abuse induce unique changes in σR activity and the changes induced potentially create redundant and, once established, independent reinforcement pathways. Concomitant targeting of both dopaminergic pathways and σR proteins produces a selective antagonism of stimulant self-administration, suggesting new avenues for combination chemotherapies to specifically combat stimulant abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-115
Number of pages16
JournalBehavioural pharmacology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Chaperone protein
  • Cocaine
  • Drug abuse
  • Methamphetamine
  • Reinforcing effects
  • Self-administration
  • Sigma receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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