Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) is an important signaling molecule involved in cell differentiation, proliferation, survival, and phagocytosis, and may participate in various brain functions. To determine whether it is also involved in cocaine sensitization, we measured the p85alpha/p110 PI3K activity in the nuclear accumbens (NAc) shell, NAc core, and prefrontal cortex (PFC) following establishment of cocaine sensitization and its subsequent reversal. Naïve rats were rank-ordered and split into either daily cocaine or saline pretreatment group based on their locomotor responses to an acute cocaine injection (7.5 mg/kg, i.p.). These two groups were then injected with cocaine (40 mg/kg, s.c.) or saline for 4 consecutive days followed by 9-day withdrawal. Cocaine sensitization was subsequently reversed by 5 daily injections of the D1/D2 agonist pergolide (0.1 mg/kg, s.c.) in combination with the 5-HT3 antagonist ondansetron (0.2 mg/kg, s.c., 3.5h after pergolide injection). After another 9-day withdrawal, behavioral cocaine sensitization and its reversal were confirmed with an acute cocaine challenge (7.5 mg/kg, i.p.), and animals were sacrificed the next day for measurement of p85alpha/p110 PI3K activity. Cocaine-sensitized animals exhibited increased PI3K activity in the NAc shell, and this increase was reversed by combined pergolide/ondansetron treatment, which also reversed behavioral sensitization. In the NAc core and PFC, cocaine sensitization decreased and increased the PI3K activity, respectively. These changes, in contrast to that in the NAc shell, were not normalized following the reversal of cocaine-sensitization. Interestingly, daily injections of pergolide alone in saline-pretreated animals induced PI3K changes that were similar to the cocaine sensitization-associated changes in the NAc core and PFC but not the NAc shell; furthermore, these changes in saline-pretreated animals were prevented by ondansetron given 3.5h after pergolide. The present study suggests that selective enhancement of the PI3K activity in the NAc shell may be one of key alterations underlying the long-term cocaine sensitization. To the extent cocaine sensitization is an important factor in human cocaine abuse, pharmacological interventions targeted toward the NAc shell PI3K alteration may be useful in cocaine abuse treatment.