CB1 Receptor Signaling Modulates Amygdalar Plasticity during Context-Cocaine Memory Reconsolidation to Promote Subsequent Cocaine Seeking.J Neurosci. 2021 01 27; 41(4):613-629.JN
Contextual drug-associated memories precipitate craving and relapse in cocaine users. Such associative memories can be weakened through interference with memory reconsolidation, a process by which memories are maintained following memory retrieval-induced destabilization. We hypothesized that cocaine-memory reconsolidation requires cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R) signaling based on the fundamental role of the endocannabinoid system in synaptic plasticity and emotional memory processing. Using an instrumental model of cocaine relapse, we evaluated whether systemic CB1R antagonism (AM251; 3 mg/kg, i.p.) during memory reconsolidation altered (1) subsequent drug context-induced cocaine-seeking behavior as well as (2) cellular adaptations and (3) excitatory synaptic physiology in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) in male Sprague Dawley rats. Systemic CB1R antagonism, during, but not after, cocaine-memory reconsolidation reduced drug context-induced cocaine-seeking behavior 3 d, but not three weeks, later. CB1R antagonism also inhibited memory retrieval-associated increases in BLA zinc finger 268 (zif268) and activity regulated cytoskeletal-associated protein (Arc) immediate-early gene (IEG) expression and changes in BLA AMPA receptor (AMPAR) and NMDA receptor (NMDAR) subunit phosphorylation that likely contribute to increased receptor membrane trafficking and synaptic plasticity during memory reconsolidation. Furthermore, CB1R antagonism increased memory reconsolidation-associated spontaneous EPSC (sEPSC) frequency in BLA principal neurons during memory reconsolidation. Together, these findings suggest that CB1R signaling modulates cellular and synaptic mechanisms in the BLA that may facilitate cocaine-memory strength by enhancing reconsolidation or synaptic reentry reinforcement, or by inhibiting extinction-memory consolidation. These findings identify the CB1R as a potential therapeutic target for relapse prevention.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Drug relapse can be triggered by the retrieval of context-drug memories on re-exposure to a drug-associated environment. Context-drug associative memories become destabilized on retrieval and must be reconsolidated into long-term memory stores to persist. Hence, targeted interference with memory reconsolidation can weaken maladaptive context-drug memories and reduce the propensity for drug relapse. Our findings indicate that cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R) signaling is critical for context-cocaine memory reconsolidation and subsequent drug context-induced reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior. Furthermore, cocaine-memory reconsolidation is associated with CB1R-dependent immediate-early gene (IEG) expression and changes in excitatory synaptic proteins and physiology in the basolateral amygdala (BLA). Together, our findings provide initial support for CB1R as a potential therapeutic target for relapse prevention.