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Scripps Research scientists uncover possible cocaine addiction trigger
Date:8/15/2010

JUPITER, FL, August 10, 2010 Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have identified a protein that may act as the trigger controlling the addictive impact of cocaine in the brain. The findings may one day lead to new therapies to treat addiction.

The study was published on August 15, 2010, in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience.

The results from the new study strongly suggest that a protein known as methyl CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) interacts with a type of genetic material known as microRNA to control an individual's motivation to consume cocaine.

"The study shows that MeCP2 blunts the amount by which microRNA-212 is increased in response to cocaine," said Paul Kenny, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics at Scripps Florida who led the study. "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 miiR-212 would be far greater in response to cocaine use, and the risk of addiction would likely be far lower."

This is the first time that MeCP2 has been shown to play a role in regulating cocaine addiction. Previously, the protein was most linked to Rett syndrome, a progressive neurodevelopmental disorder and one of the most common causes of mental retardation in females.

Interactions Shape Vulnerability

These new findings come on the heels of another cocaine addiction study by Kenny and his Scripps Florida colleagues published in the journal Nature in early July. That study showed for the first time that miR-212 a type of small non-protein coding RNA that can regulate the expression levels of hundreds or even thousands of genes influenced response to the drug in rats. Animals with increased miR-212 expression were less motiv
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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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