Knockdown of tropomyosin-related kinase B receptor expression in the nucleus accumbens shell prevents intermittent social defeat stress-induced cross-sensitization to amphetamine in rats

The nucleus accumbens (NAc) is a critical brain region for the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) can facilitate stress- and drug-induced neuroadaptation in the mesocorticolimbic system. BDNF-containing projections to the NAc originate from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the prefrontal cortex, and BDNF release activates tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB). In this study, we examined the necessity for BDNF-TrkB signaling in the NAc shell during social defeat stress-induced cross-sensitization to amphetamine. Adeno-associated virus expressing short hairpin RNA directed against TrkB (AAV-shTrkB) was infused bilaterally into the NAc shell to knock down TrkB, whereas AAV-GFP (green fluorescent protein) was used as the control virus. Rats were exposed to intermittent social defeat stress or handling procedures; amphetamine challenge was given at 10 days after the last defeat and locomotor activity was measured. Stressed rats that received the control virus showed cross-sensitization to amphetamine compared with the handled rats. In contrast, NAc TrkB knockdown prevented social defeat stress-induced cross-sensitization. TrkB knockdown in the NAc was found to reduce the level of phospho-extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 in this region. NAc TrkB knockdown also prevented stress-induced elevation of BDNF and the glutamate receptor type 1 (GluA1) subunit of AMPA receptor in the VTA, as well as ΔFosB expression in the NAc. These findings indicated that BDNF-TrkB signaling in the NAc shell was required for social defeat stress-induced cross-sensitization.