The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Imbalances in prefrontal cortex CC-Homer1 versus CC-Homer2 expression promote cocaine preference.

PMID 23658151


Homer postsynaptic scaffolding proteins regulate forebrain glutamate transmission and thus, are likely molecular candidates mediating hypofrontality in addiction. Protracted withdrawal from cocaine experience increases the relative expression of Homer2 versus Homer1 isoforms within medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Thus, this study used virus-mediated gene transfer strategies to investigate the functional relevance of an imbalance in mPFC Homer1/2 expression as it relates to various measures of sensorimotor, cognitive, emotional and motivational processing, as well as accompanying alterations in extracellular glutamate in C57BL/6J mice. mPFC Homer2b overexpression elevated basal glutamate content and blunted cocaine-induced glutamate release within the mPFC, whereas Homer2b knockdown produced the opposite effects. Despite altering mPFC glutamate, Homer2b knockdown failed to influence cocaine-elicited conditioned place preferences, nor did it produce consistent effects on any other behavioral measures. In contrast, elevating the relative expression of Homer2b versus Homer1 within mPFC, by overexpressing Homer2b or knocking down Homer1c, shifted the dose-response function for cocaine-conditioned reward to the left, without affecting cocaine locomotion or sensitization. Intriguingly, both these transgenic manipulations produced glutamate anomalies within the nucleus accumbens (NAC) of cocaine-naive animals that are reminiscent of those observed in cocaine experienced animals, including reduced basal extracellular glutamate content, reduced Homer1/2 and glutamate receptor expression, and augmented cocaine-elicited glutamate release. Together, these data provide novel evidence in support of opposing roles for constitutively expressed Homer1 and Homer2 isoforms in regulating mPFC glutamate transmission in vivo and support the hypothesis that cocaine-elicited increases in the relative amount of mPFC Homer2 versus Homer1 signaling produces abnormalities in NAC glutamate transmission that enhance vulnerability to cocaine reward.