In this week’s Journal of Neuroscience, French and Swiss researchers examined the consequences of disrupting protein phosphorylation in a major signaling cascade for the purpose of showing how this particular phosphorylating process regulates neuronal changes that occur with even a single-time exposure to cocaine. It is well known that many drugs of abuse, particularly powerfully addictive drugs such as cocaine, meth, and heroin, cause rapid transformations in neuronal architecture and amplifications of synaptic signaling all for the purpose of increasing the likelihood of future hedonic opportunities (i.e. the downward, slinky spiral towards addiction). In this study, the researchers first show the immediate effects that cocaine has on the activation of critical elements of signaling cascades as illustrated in this series of beautiful, immunoflourescent confocal images.
Cocaine also enhanced synaptic pruning (just above), but yet the inhibition of protein phosphorylation by a biological substance known as TDE reversed any cocaine-induced change in neuronal architecture or levels of phosphorylation in signaling cascade. This indicates that this signaling pathway may be a therapeutic target (in my opinion) for any physiological changes that favor future cocaine seeking and dependence.
Besnard A, Bouveyron N, Kappes V, Pascoli V, Pagès C, Heck N, Vanhoutte P, & Caboche J (2011). Alterations of molecular and behavioral responses to cocaine by selective inhibition of elk-1 phosphorylation. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31 (40), 14296-307 PMID: 21976515