Self-administration of cocaine induces dopamine-independent self-administration of sigma agonists

Takato Hiranita, Maddalena Mereu, Paul L. Soto, Gianluigi Tanda, Jonathan L. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Sigma 1 receptors (σ 1 Rs) are intracellularly mobile chaperone proteins implicated in several disease processes, as well as psychiatric disorders and substance abuse. Here we report that although selective σ 1 R agonists (PRE-084, (+)-pentazocine) lacked reinforcing effects in drug-naive rats, over the course of 28 experimental sessions, which was more than sufficient for acquisition of cocaine self-administration, responding was not maintained by either σ 1 R agonist. In contrast, after subjects self-administered cocaine σ 1 R agonists were readily self-administered. The induced reinforcing effects were long lasting; a response for which subjects had no history of reinforcement was newly conditioned with both σ 1 R agonists, extinguished when injections were discontinued, and reconditioned when σ 1 R agonists again followed responses. Experience with food reinforcement was ineffective as an inducer of σ 1 R agonist reinforcement. Although a variety of dopamine receptor antagonists blocked cocaine self-administration, consistent with its dopaminergic mechanism, PRE-084 self-administration was entirely insensitive to these drugs. Conversely, the σR antagonist, BD1063, blocked PRE-084 self-administration but was inactive against cocaine. In microdialysis studies i.v. PRE-084 did not significantly stimulate dopamine at doses that were self-administered in rats either with or without a cocaine self-administration experience. The results indicate that cocaine experience induces reinforcing effects of previously inactive σ 1 R agonists, and that the mechanism underlying these reinforcing effects is dopamine independent. It is further suggested that induced σ 1 R mechanisms may have an essential role in treatment-resistant stimulant abuse, suggesting new approaches for the development of effective medications for stimulant abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-615
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • cocaine
  • dopamine
  • drug reinforcement history
  • drug self-administration
  • reinforcement mechanisms
  • σ receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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