Effects of miR-495 in Cocaine Addiction: Viral Mediated Overexpression and Inhibition of miR-495 Affects Cocaine-Seeking Behavior
MicroRNAs are small, non-coding transcripts that control gene expression by preventing mRNA from translating into proteins. They have been implicated to play a role in many drug addictions. We previously found that miR-495 targets several addiction-related genes (ARGs) and is highly expressed in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). We also found miR-495 is downregulated in the NAc following acute cocaine administration, and cocaine motivation measured by breakpoint on a progressive ratio schedule of cocaine reinforcement is decreased when miR-495 is overexpressed. In this study, we manipulated the endogenous levels of miR-495 by using a viral vector. Using an animal model, rats were first trained for self-administration on a fixed ratio (FR) schedule of reinforcement. After they were infused with a lentivirus to overexpress (LV-miR-495) or decrease (LV-Sponge) miR-495, in the NAc shell. The rats were then tested for extinction and reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior, which are measures of motivation for cocaine. We measured the relative levels of miR-495 in the NAc shell using qRT-PCR. Our results show that overexpression of miR-495 decreased cocaine-seeking behavior during extinction and cocaine reinstatement, as we hypothesized. Surprisingly, miR-495 LV-sponge also decreased cocaine-seeking behavior in extinction, not as we hypothesized. However, we found that LV-Sponge failed to significantly decrease levels of miR-495 as intended. In conclusion, understanding why LV-Sponge decreased, rather than increased, miR-495 will need further study, however, the results with LV-miR-495 extend previous findings that miR-495 plays a vital role in the molecular mechanism that influences motivation to seek cocaine.