Repeated cocaine exposure causes persistent, maladaptive alterations in brain and behavior, and hope for effective therapeutics lies in understanding these processes. We describe here an essential role for fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP), an RNA-binding protein and regulator of dendritic protein synthesis, in cocaine conditioned place preference, behavioral sensitization, and motor stereotypy. Cocaine reward deficits in FMRP-deficient mice stem from elevated mGluR5 (or GRM5) function, similar to a subset of fragile X symptoms, and do not extend tonatural reward. We find that FMRP functions inthe adult nucleus accumbens (NAc), a critical addiction-related brain region, to mediate behavioral sensitization but not cocaine reward. FMRP-deficient mice also exhibit several abnormalities in NAc medium spiny neurons, including reduced presynaptic function and premature changes in dendritic morphology and glutamatergic neurotransmission following repeated cocaine treatment. Together, our findings reveal FMRP as a critical mediator of cocaine-induced behavioral and synaptic plasticity.
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