Cocaine induces neuronal changes as well as non-neuronal (astrocytes, microglia, oligodendroglia) mechanisms, but these changes can also be modulated by various types of drug abstinence. Due to the very complex and still incompletely understood nature of cocaine use disorder, understanding of the mechanisms involved in addictive behavior is necessary to further search for effective pharmacotherapy of this disease. The aim of this study was to investigate changes at the gene and protein levels associated with glial cell activity after cocaine exposure, as well as during early cocaine abstinence (3 days) with extinction training or in home cage isolation. Cocaine self-administration significantly decreased myelin regulatory factor (MYRF) and cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase (CNP) expression in the hippocampus as well as pleckstrin (PLEK) and T-lymphocyte activation antigen (CD86) in the rat striatum. Depending on cocaine abstinence conditions, microglial PLEK expression was increased through extinction training but did not change in the home cage isolation. In addition, downregulation of gene expression associated with oligodendrocytes (CNP, MYRF) and microglia regulator of G protein signaling 1 (RGS1) was observed in the hippocampus, regardless of the type of drug abstinence, while downregulation of myelin and lymphocyte protein (MAL) expression was found only in rats exposed to abstinence in the home cage. Taken together, the presented results strongly suggest that cocaine abstinence evokes significant changes in gene expression associated with the proper functioning of glial cells, suggesting their significant involvement in adaptive changes in the brain associated with cocaine exposure. Interestingly, drug abstinence conditions are important factors influencing observed changes at the transcript levels of selected genes, which may be of clinical interest.
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