Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Penn Researchers Show Cocaine Addiction Resistance May Be Passed Down from Father to Son

Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Animal model reveals paternal cocaine use confers protection against rewarding effects of cocaine in male but not female offspring.

New research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reveals that sons of male rats exposed to cocaine are resistant to the rewarding effects of the drug, suggesting that cocaine-induced changes in physiology are passed down from father to son. The findings are published in the latest edition of Nature Neuroscience.

“We know that genetic factors contribute significantly to the risk of cocaine abuse, but the potential role of epigenetic influences, how certain genes related to addiction are expressed, is still relatively unknown,” said senior study author R. Christopher Pierce, PhD, associate professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry at Penn. “This study is the first to show that the chemical effects of cocaine use can be passed down to future generations to cause a resistance to addictive behavior, indicating that paternal exposure to toxins can have profound effects on gene expression and behavior of their offspring.”

In the current study, the team used an animal model to study inherited effects of cocaine abuse. Male rats self-administered cocaine for 60 days, while controls were administered saline. The male rats were mated with females that had never been exposed to the drug. To eliminate any influence that the males' behavior would have on the pregnant females, they were separated directly after they mated.

The rats’ offspring were monitored to see whether they would begin to self-administer cocaine when it was offered to them. The researchers discovered that male offspring of rats exposed to the drug, but not the female offspring, acquired cocaine self-administration more slowly and had decreased levels of cocaine intake relative to controls. Moreover, control animals were willing to work significantly harder for a single cocaine dose than the offspring of cocaine-addicted rats, suggesting that the rewarding effect of cocaine was decreased.

In collaboration with Ghazaleh Sadri-Vakili, MS, PhD, from MGH, the researchers subsequently examined the animals’ brains and found that male offspring of the cocaine-addicted rats had increased levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the prefrontal cortex, which is known to blunt the behavioral effects of cocaine.

“We were quite surprised that the male offspring of sires that used cocaine didn't like cocaine as much,” said Pierce. “We identified one change in the brain that appears to underlie this cocaine resistance effect.  But there are undoubtedly other physiological changes as well and we are currently performing more broad experiments to identify them.  We also are eager to perform similar studies with more widely used drugs of abuse such as nicotine and alcohol.”

The findings suggest that cocaine causes epigenetic changes in sperm, thereby reprogramming the information transmitted between generations.  The researchers don’t know exactly why only the male offspring received the cocaine-resistant trait from their fathers, but speculate that sex hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and/or progesterone may play a role.

The first author of the paper, Fair M. Vassoler, PhD, is a recent graduate of the Penn neuroscience graduate group. Other investigators from Penn who contributed to this work include Samantha L. White and Heath D. Schmidt.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

How Different Treatments for Crohn's Effect the Microbiome
Different treatments for Crohn's disease in children affects their gut microbes in distinct ways, which has implications for future development of microbial-targeted therapies for these patients, according to a study led by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Profiling Non-Protein-Coding RNAs
Growing insights about a significant, yet poorly understood, part of the genome – the “dark matter of DNA” -- have fundamentally changed the way scientists approach the study of diseases.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
New Target for Preventing Breast Cancer Relapses
A surprising, paradoxical relationship between a tumor suppressor molecule and an oncogene may be the key to explaining and working around how breast cancer tumor cells become desensitized to a common cancer drug, found researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Chromosomal Chaos
Penn study forms basis for future precision medicine approaches for Sezary syndrome
Friday, October 09, 2015
MYC Oncogene Disrupts Cancers Rhythm
Findings inform time-dependent treatment for reducing side effects and increasing effectiveness of cancer medications.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Genes' Found that Play Major Role in Skin and Organ Development
Disruptions of splicing proteins cause facial, skin, organ defects in young mice.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Synthetic DNA Vaccine Against MERS Shows Promise
A novel synthetic DNA vaccine can, for the first time, induce protective immunity against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in animal species.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Cell Aging Slowed by Putting Brakes on Noisy Transcription
Experiments in yeast hint at ways to extend life of some human cells.
Monday, August 03, 2015
Disrupting Cells’ ‘Powerhouses’ Can Lead to Tumor Growth
University of Pennsylvania researchers find that mitochondrial defects have a key role in a cells becoming cancerous.
Monday, July 13, 2015
Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics to Rise on Penn Medicine Campus
New facility poised to accelerate the research and development of personalized cellular cancer therapies.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Cell Senescence, Aging Related to Epigenetic Changes
One way cells promote tumor suppression is through a process called senescence, an irreversible arrest of proliferation.
Monday, September 02, 2013
Tension on Gut Muscles Induces Cell Invasion in Zebrafish Intestine
Study finds this effect mimics cancer metastasis.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Pancreatic Cancer Can Run but Not Hide
Immune system tricked into helping cancer cells, but can be blocked, according to Penn study.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Scientific News
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Biologists Induce Flatworms to Grow Heads and Brains of Other Species
Findings shed light on role of a new kind of epigenetic signaling in evolution, could yield clues for understanding birth defects and regeneration.
Turning up the Tap on Microbes Leads to Better Protein Patenting
Mining millions of proteins could become faster and easier with a new technique that may also transform the enzyme-catalyst industry, according to University of California, Davis, researchers.
Mathematical Model Forecasts the Path of Breast Cancer
Chances of survival depend on which organs breast cancer tumors colonize first.
Exploring the Causes of Cancer
Queen's research to understand the regulation of a cell surface protein involved in cancer.
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Tardigrade's Are DNA Master Thieves
Tardigrades, nearly microscopic animals that can survive the harshest of environments, including outer space, hold the record for the animal that has the most foreign DNA.
The Secret Behind the Power of Bacterial Sex
Migration between different communities of bacteria is the key to the type of gene transfer that can lead to the spread of traits such as antibiotic resistance, according to researchers at Oxford University.
Farming’s in Their DNA
Ancient genomes reveal natural selection in action.
GMO Food Animals Should be Judged by Product, Not Process
In a world with a burgeoning demand for meat, milk and eggs, regulatory policies around the use of biotechnologies in agriculture need to be based on the safety and attributes of those foods rather than on the methods used to produce them, says a UC Davis animal scientist.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos