August 19, 2010

Protein Brings Light To Addictive Properties Of Cocaine

Scientists have identified a protein that may bring light to the addictive impact of cocaine on the brain.

Researchers said a protein known as methyl CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) mixes with a genetic material known as microRNA, which controls a person's motivation to take cocaine.

The researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in Florida looked at the expression of MeCP2 in the brain being exposed to cocaine.  During the study, they found the expression was increased in animals given extended access to the drug.  The researchers used a virus to disrupt the expression of MeCP2, leading them to find that rats consumed less and less cocaine.

"The study shows that MeCP2 blunts the amount by which microRNA-212 is increased in response to cocaine," Paul Kenny, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics at Scripps Florida, was quoted as saying.

"We have previously shown that miR-212 is very protective against cocaine addiction. Therefore, the conclusion is that MeCP2 may regulate vulnerability to addiction in some people through its inhibitory influence on miR-212. Without this influence, the expression of miR-212 would be far greater in response to cocaine use, and the risk of addiction would likely be far lower."

The scientists also discovered that in addition to MeCP2 blunting miR-212 expression, the opposite was true in that miR-212 could decrease levels of MeCP2.


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