Cocaine acutely inhibits DNA synthesis in developing rat brain regions: evidence for direct actions.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Perinatal exposure to cocaine has been shown to cause morphological and neurobehavioral abnormalities. In the current study, neonatal rats were given an acute injection of cocaine (30 mg/kg s.c.) at 1, 3, 5, 8, 11 or 15 days of age, and [3H]thymidine incorporation into DNA examined over the ensuing 30 min period. Three brain regions were used that differ in their timetables of cell maturation: cerebellum, cerebral cortex and midbrain + brainstem. Cocaine inhibited DNA synthesis in all brain regions, with diminishing impact as the animals matured; by 15 days of age, the effect of cocaine was no longer significant. Inhibition of macromolecule synthesis was selective for DNA, as [3H]leucine incorporation into protein was much less affected by cocaine. Although inhibition of [3H]thymidine incorporation by a single injection of cocaine was short-lived, repeated administration could have cumulative effects: chronic treatment on days 2, 3 and 4 did not desensitize the adverse effect of a subsequent dose administered on day 5. Additionally, with chronic cocaine, the cerebellum displayed a pronounced rebound elevation of DNA synthesis 24 h after the last dose, a characteristic finding in delayed cell maturation. Inhibition of DNA synthesis by cocaine in developing brain was not secondary to ischemia, nor to local anesthesia, as alpha-adrenergic blockade with phenoxybenzamine afforded no protection, and lidocaine could not substitute for cocaine. In contrast, a small amount (15 micrograms) of cocaine injected directly into the central nervous system readily caused inhibition of DNA synthesis; the same dose given systemically had no effect. These data suggest that cocaine damages the developing brain, in part, through direct interference with DNA synthesis.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Anderson-Brown, T; Slotkin, TA; Seidler, FJ

Published Date

  • December 24, 1990

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 537 / 1-2

Start / End Page

  • 197 - 202

PubMed ID

  • 2085773

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0006-8993

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/0006-8993(90)90358-i


  • eng

Conference Location

  • Netherlands