Multiple Cell Signaling Pathways Modulate the Cocaine-Induced Increase in Mu Opioid Receptor Protein Expression in PC12 Cells




Softah, Abrar

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University of Guelph


Cocaine is interrelated with the opioid system on many levels, especially via the mu opioid receptor (MOR). Also, cocaine has been involved in modulating nitric oxide (NO) actions within the cell. The effect of cocaine was first assessed on the MOR, and then on transcription by the use of 1 µg/ mL actinomycin D inhibitor. Several signaling pathways that cocaine may exert its action in modulating the MOR up-regulation in protein expression were also explored. Two dosage regimens were used in cocaine treatment, single continuous treatment (SCT), and repeated intermittent treatment (RIT). Different pathway inhibitors were used on PC12 cells, as follows: the PLC-PKC inhibitors 5 µM U-73122 and 10 µM BIS-1 used to investigate the involvement of the PKC signaling pathways in MOR expression levels, the evaluation of MAPK pathway by the use of 50 µM U0126 inhibitor, and the 10 µM LY94002 inhibitor was used to investigate the PI3K/Akt pathway. Moreover, the effect of NO on these signaling pathways was investigated by the use of 20 mM nonselective L-NAME inhibitor and qualitatively by DAF-2 florescence. Western blot analysis indicated that cocaine up-regulated MOR protein expression. Also, RIT cocaine treatment increased MOR protein levels via transcription. All three signaling pathways, MAPK, Akt and PKC modulated cocaine-induced increase of MOR following SCT cocaine treatment (post-transcriptional). Both MAPK and Akt have been found to modulate the cocaine-induced transcription of MOR via the two dosage regimens of cocaine, SCT and RIT. Also, inhibition of both PLC and PKC did not prevent cocaine-induced increase in MOR transcription, according to RIT of cocaine. Furthermore, Akt and PKC appeared to modulate cocaine-induced NO production while MAPK did not. NO seemed to be involved with the PKC and Akt pathways in up-regulating MOR in RIT of cocaine directly by the Akt pathway, and indirectly by the PKC pathway. On the other hand, NO and MAPK modulated the MOR up-regulation expression simultaneously, but in an individual/parallel manner. Furthermore, signaling pathway activation levels were tested using L-NAME which concluded that NO modulated cocaine-induced increase in total Akt protein levels, but did not appear to have an effect on phosphorylated MAPK activation levels. In conclusion, different treatment regimens of cocaine activate different pathways; SCT of cocaine activated all three signaling pathways, however, RIT of cocaine activated only the MAPK and Akt pathways.



cocaine, mu opioid receptor, PKC, MAPK, Akt, PC12 cells, nitric oxide