Decrease of cocaine, but not heroin, self-administration and relapse by the tyrosine kinase inhibitor masitinib in male Sprague Dawley rats.
RATIONALE: Accumulating evidence shows that cocaine, and also heroin, influence several tyrosine kinases, expressed in neurons and in non-neuronal populations such as microglia, astrocytes and mast-cells. Drug-induced activation of mast cells both triggers inflammatory processes in the brain mediated by the glial cells they activate, and facilitates histamine release which may directly influence the dopamine system. Thus, by triggering the activation and degranulation of mast cells dependent on the tyrosine kinase c-kit and Fyn, the latter being also involved in NMDA-dependent synaptic plasticity, cocaine and heroin may indirectly influence the neural mechanisms that mediate their reinforcing properties. Masitinib, a novel tyrosine kinase inhibitor with high selectivity for c-Kit, Fyn and Lyn, may alter the aberrant consequences of the activation of these tyrosine kinases by cocaine and heroin. OBJECTIVE: We investigated in rats the effect of a chronic oral treatment with masitinib (20 mg/kg) on the reinforcing and motivational properties of self-administered cocaine (250 μg/infusion) and heroin (40 μg/infusion). METHODS: Three different cohorts of rats were trained instrumentally to respond for cocaine, heroin or food under continuous reinforcement. In each group, we assessed the influence of chronic daily treatment with masitinib on the maintenance of instrumental responding and intake and the motivation for the reinforcer. Thus, masitinib and vehicle-treated rats were challenged to adapt to high behavioural demand, to respond under a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement and to reinstate instrumental responding after extinction and/or abstinence. RESULTS: Masitinib selectively decreased cocaine intake, the motivation for cocaine and the subsequent propensity to respond for cocaine under extinction, while having no effect on instrumental responding for heroin or food. CONCLUSION: The present findings suggest masitinib, a drug with proven efficacy in CNS disorders, could represent a novel treatment for cocaine addiction provided its influence on the reinforcing and incentive properties of the drug is confirmed.