Long-term reduction of cocaine self-administration in rats treated with adenoviral vector-delivered cocaine hydrolase: Evidence for enzymatic activity

Natalie E. Zlebnik, Stephen Brimijoin, Yang Gao, Amy T. Saykao, Robin J. Parks, Marilyn E Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


A new pharmacokinetic approach treating cocaine addiction involves rapidly metabolizing cocaine before it reaches brain reward centers using mutated human butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) or cocaine hydrolase (CocH). Recent work has shown that helper-dependent adenoviral (hdAD) vector-mediated plasma CocH reduced the locomotor-activating effects of cocaine and prevented reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior up to 6 months in rats. The present study investigated whether hdAD-CocH could decrease ongoing intravenous cocaine (0.4 mg/kg) self-administration. The hdAD-CocH vector was injected into self-administering rats, and after accumulation of plasma CocH, there was a dramatic reduction in cocaine infusions earned under a fixed ratio 1 schedule of reinforcement that lasted for the length of the study (>2 months). Pretreatment with the selective BChE and CocH inhibitor iso-OMPA (1.5 mg/kg) restored cocaine intake; therefore, the decline in self-administration was likely due to rapid CocH-mediated cocaine metabolism. Direct measurements of cocaine levels in plasma and brain samples taken after the conclusion of behavioral studies provided strong support for this conclusion. Further, rats injected with hdAD-CocH did not experience a deficit in operant responding for drug reinforcement and self-administered methamphetamine (0.05 mg/kg) at control levels. Overall, these outcomes suggest that viral gene transfer can yield plasma CocH levels that effectively diminish long-term cocaine intake and may have potential treatment implications for cocaine-dependent individuals seeking to become and remain abstinent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1538-1546
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Cole Batty, James Brown, Luke Bushman, Clare Chamberlain, Seth Johnson, Sarah Korthauer, Torie Lepak, Nathan Omdalen, Heather Veglahn, and Ashley Xiong for technical assistance and Krista Walkowiak, DVM, for veterinary care. Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant DP1 DA031340 (SB); NIDA had no further role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.


  • adenoviral vector
  • butyrylcholinesterase
  • cocaine hydrolase
  • gene therapy
  • methamphetamine
  • self-administration


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