Metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) antagonism inhibits cocaine self-administration and reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying this action are poorly understood. Here we report a presynaptic glutamate/cannabinoid mechanism that may underlie this action. Systemic or intra-nucleus accumbens (NAc) administration of the mGluR5 antagonist 2-methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)-pyridine (MPEP) dose-dependently reduced cocaine (and sucrose) self-administration and cocaine-induced reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior. The reduction in cocaine-taking and cocaine-seeking was associated with a reduction in cocaine-enhanced extracellular glutamate, but not cocaine-enhanced extracellular dopamine (DA) in the NAc. MPEP alone, when administered systemically or locally into the NAc, elevated extracellular glutamate, but not DA. Similarly, the cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist, rimonabant, elevated NAc glutamate, not DA. mGluR5s were found mainly in striatal medium-spiny neurons, not in astrocytes, and MPEP-enhanced extracellular glutamate was blocked by a NAc CB1 receptor antagonist or N-type Ca++ channel blocker, suggesting that a retrograde endocannabinoid-signaling mechanism underlies MPEP-induced glutamate release. This interpretation was further supported by our findings that genetic deletion of CB1 receptors in CB1-knockout mice blocked both MPEP-enhanced extracellular glutamate and MPEP-induced reductions in cocaine self-administration. Together, these results indicate that the therapeutic anti-cocaine effects of mGluR5 antagonists are mediated by elevation of extracellular glutamate in the NAc via an endocannabinoid-CB1 receptor disinhibition mechanism.
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