The high rates of relapse associated with current medications used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) necessitate research that expands our understanding of the neural mechanisms regulating opioid taking to identify molecular substrates that could be targeted by novel pharmacotherapies to treat OUD. Recent studies show that activation of calcitonin receptors (CTRs) is sufficient to reduce the rewarding effects of addictive drugs in rodents. However, the role of central CTR signaling in opioid-mediated behaviors has not been studied. Here, we used single nuclei RNA sequencing (snRNA-seq), fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), and immunohistochemistry (IHC) to characterize cell type-specific patterns of CTR expression in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain region that plays a critical role in voluntary drug taking. Using these approaches, we identified CTRs expressed on D1R- and D2R-expressing medium spiny neurons (MSNs) in the medial shell subregion of the NAc. Interestingly, Calcr transcripts were expressed at higher levels in D2R- versus D1R-expressing MSNs. Cre-dependent viral-mediated miRNA knockdown of CTRs in transgenic male rats was then used to determine the functional significance of endogenous CTR signaling in opioid taking. We discovered that reduced CTR expression specifically in D1R-expressing MSNs potentiated/augmented opioid self-administration. In contrast, reduced CTR expression specifically in D2R-expressing MSNs attenuated opioid self-administration. These findings highlight a novel cell type-specific mechanism by which CTR signaling in the ventral striatum bidirectionally modulates voluntary opioid taking and support future studies aimed at targeting central CTR-expressing circuits to treat OUD.
Zhang, Y., Ben Nathan, J., Moreno, A. et al. Calcitonin receptor signaling in nucleus accumbens D1R- and D2R-expressing medium spiny neurons bidirectionally alters opioid taking in male rats. Neuropsychopharmacol. (2023). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41386-023-01634-z