Embryonic cocaine exposure and corticosterone: Serotonin2 receptor mediation

Erin B Larson, Lisa M. Schrott, Laura Bordone, Sheldon B. Sparber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Cocaine activates the mature hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, increasing corticosterone concentrations in animals and humans and serotonin2 receptors (5-HT2) are involved in this effect. Although prenatal cocaine exposure is associated with altered responsiveness of the HPA axis to "stress" and serotonergic compounds postnatally, it is unknown whether cocaine directly activates the embryonic HPA axis or if 5-HT2 receptors are involved. Domestic chicken eggs with viable embryos were exposed to either the 5-HT2 receptor agonist dimethoxyiodophenylaminopropane (DOI: 0.4, 0.8, or 1.2 mg/kg egg) or saline on embryonic day 18 (E18). In a second study, the 5-HT2 antagonist ritanserin (0.3 mg/kg egg, a dose found effective against other effects of DOI or cocaine) or vehicle was administered on E17, prior to treatment on E18 with either saline or cocaine (5 injections of 12 mg/kg egg, equivalent to a total dose of 3.5 mg/egg). Radioimmunoassay was used to measure serum corticosterone from blood samples taken approximately 1-2 h after drug injections. DOI significantly raised corticosterone in a dose-related fashion. Cocaine-induced corticosterone elevations were blocked by pretreatment with ritanserin, whereas ritanserin by itself did not affect corticosterone concentrations. These data indicate that 5-HT2 receptors are involved in cocaine's effect on the HPA axis during late chicken embryogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-75
Number of pages5
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported, in part, by USPHS grants K01 DA00362 and R37 DA04979.


  • Chicken
  • DOI
  • Development
  • HPA axis
  • Prenatal stress
  • Ritanserin


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