Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 32841724
Link to DOI – S0301-0082(20)30153-210.1016/j.pneurobio.2020.101898
Prog Neurobiol 2021 02; 197(): 101898
Cocaine addiction is a chronic and relapsing disorder with an important genetic component. Human candidate gene association studies showed that the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs16969968 in the α5 subunit (α5SNP) of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), previously associated with increased tobacco dependence, was linked to a lower prevalence of cocaine use disorder (CUD). Three additional SNPs in the α5 subunit, previously shown to modify α5 mRNA levels, were also associated with CUD, suggesting an important role of the subunit in this pathology. To investigate the link between this subunit and CUD, we submitted rats knockout for the α5 subunit gene (α5KO), or carrying the α5SNP, to cocaine self-administration (SA) and showed that the acquisition of cocaine-SA was impaired in α5SNP rats while α5KO rats exhibited enhanced cocaine-induced relapse associated with altered neuronal activity in the nucleus accumbens. In addition, we observed in a human cohort of patients with CUD that the α5SNP was associated with a slower transition from first cocaine use to CUD. We also identified a novel SNP in the β4 nAChR subunit, part of the same gene cluster in the human genome and potentially altering CHRNA5 expression, associated with shorter time to relapse to cocaine use in patients. In conclusion, the α5SNP is protective against CUD by influencing early stages of cocaine exposure while CHRNA5 expression levels may represent a biomarker for the risk to relapse to cocaine use. Drugs modulating α5 containing nAChR activity may thus represent a novel therapeutic strategy against CUD.