Studies in rats have revealed the key role that a small regulatory piece of RNA, microRNA 212 (miR-212), plays in the brain to regulate cocaine intake. This may provide a novel target for treatment of addictions to cocaine and other drugs (Hollander JA et al. Nature. 2010;466:197-202).
MicroRNAs are small non–protein-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression. Investigators from the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla, showed that cocaine-seeking behavior in rats is modulated by this microRNA; rats that self-administered cocaine for long periods showed increased levels of miR-212 in the brain’s striatum. This increase in miR-212 eventually led to a decrease in cocaine intake in the rats and protected against addictive behavior. Conversely, blocking the production of miR-212 increased cocaine intake in the rodents.
Friedrich MJ. Regulating Addiction. JAMA. 2010;304(9):954. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1223