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Preclinical evidence to support repurposing everolimus for craving reduction during protracted drug withdrawal.

  • Chiu, Alvin S
  • Kang, Matthew C
  • Huerta Sanchez, Laura L
  • Fabella, Anne M
  • Holder, Kalysta N
  • Barger, Brooke D
  • Elias, Kristina N
  • Shin, Christina B
  • Jimenez Chavez, C Leonardo
  • Kippin, Tod E
  • Szumlinski, Karen K
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2021
eScholarship - University of California
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Cue-elicited drug-craving is a cardinal feature of addiction that intensifies (incubates) during protracted withdrawal. In a rat model, these addiction-related behavioral pathologies are mediated, respectively, by time-dependent increases in PI3K/Akt1 signaling and reduced Group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGlu) expression, within the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Herein, we examined the capacity of single oral dosing with everolimus, an FDA-approved inhibitor of the PI3K/Akt effector mTOR, to reduce incubated cocaine-craving and reverse incubation-associated changes in vmPFC kinase activity and mGlu expression. Rats were trained to lever-press for intravenous infusions of cocaine or delivery of sucrose pellets and then subjected to tests for cue-reinforced responding during early (3 days) or late (30-46 days) withdrawal. Rats were gavage-infused with everolimus (0-1.0 mg/kg), either prior to testing to examine for effects upon reinforcer-seeking behavior, or immediately following testing to probe effects upon the consolidation of extinction learning. Single oral dosing with everolimus dose-dependently blocked cocaine-seeking during late withdrawal and the effect lasted at least 24 h. No everolimus effects were observed for cue-elicited sucrose-seeking or cocaine-seeking in early withdrawal. In addition, everolimus treatment, following initial cue-testing, reduced subsequent cue hyper-responsivity exhibited observed during late withdrawal, arguing a facilitation of extinction memory consolidation. everolimus' "anti-incubation" effect was associated with a reversal of withdrawal-induced changes in indices of PI3K/Akt1/mTOR activity, as well as Homer protein and mGlu1/5 expression, within the prelimbic (PL) subregion of the prefrontal cortex. Our results indicate mTOR inhibition as a viable strategy for interrupting heightened cocaine-craving and facilitating addiction recovery during protracted withdrawal.

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