Sensitization to the effects of drugs of abuse and associated stimuli contributes to drug craving, compulsive drug use, and relapse in addiction. Repeated opiate exposure produces behavioral sensitization that is hypothesized to result from neural plasticity in specific limbic, striatal and cortical systems. ΔFosB and FosB are members of the Fos family of transcription factors that are implicated in neural plasticity in addiction. This study examined the effects of intermittent morphine treatment, associated with motor sensitization, on FosB/ΔFosB levels using quantitative immunohistochemistry. Motor sensitization was tested in C57BL/6 mice that received six intermittent pre-treatments (on days 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12) with either subcutaneous morphine (10 mg/kg) or saline followed by a challenge injection of morphine or saline on day 16. Mice receiving repeated morphine injections demonstrated significant increases in locomotor activity on days 8, 10, and 12 of treatment (vs. day 1), consistent with development of locomotor sensitization. A morphine challenge on day 16 significantly increased locomotor activity of saline pre-treated mice and produced even larger increases in motor activity in the morphine pre-treated mice, consistent with the expression of opiate sensitization. Intermittent morphine pre-treatment on these six pre-treatment days produced a significant induction of FosB/ΔFosB, measured on day 16, in multiple brain regions including prelimbic (PL) and infralimbic (IL) cortex, nucleus accumbens (NAc) core, dorsomedial caudate-putamen (CPU), basolateral amygdala (BLA) and central nucleus of the amygdala (CNA) but not in a motor cortex control region. Opiate induced sensitization may develop via Fos/ΔFosB plasticity in motivational pathways (NAc), motor outputs (CPU), and associative learning (PL, IL, BLA) and stress pathways (CNA).
Kaplan, G. B., Leite-Morris, K. A., Fan, W. Y., Young, A. J., & Guy, M. D. (2011). Opiate sensitization induces FosB/ΔFosB expression in prefrontal cortical, striatal and amygdala brain regions. PLoS ONE, 6(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0023574