Methamphetamine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant with increasing levels of abuse worldwide. Alterations to mRNA and miRNA expression within the mesolimbic system can affect addiction-like behaviors and thus play a role in the development of drug addiction. While many studies have investigated the effects of high-dose methamphetamine, and identified neurotoxic effects, few have looked at the role that persistent changes in gene regulation play following methamphetamine self-administration. Therefore, the aim of this study was to identify RNA changes in the ventral tegmental area following methamphetamine self-administration. We performed microarray analyses on RNA extracted from the ventral tegmental area of Sprague–Dawley rats following methamphetamine self-administration training (2 h/day) and 14 days of abstinence.
We identified 78 miRNA and 150 mRNA transcripts that were differentially expressed (fdr adjusted p < 0.05, absolute log2 fold change >0.5); these included genes not previously associated with addiction (miR-125a-5p, miR-145 and Foxa1), loci encoding receptors related to drug addiction behaviors and genes with previously recognized roles in addiction such as miR-124, miR-181a, DAT and Ret.
This study provides insight into the effects of methamphetamine on RNA expression in a key brain region associated with addiction, highlighting the possibility that persistent changes in the expression of genes with both known and previously unknown roles in addiction occur.