Reduced behavioral effects of cocaine in heterozygous brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) knockout mice

F. Scott Hall, Jana Drgonova, Michelle Goeb, George R. Uhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) affects the development of brain neurotransmitter systems, including dopamine and serotonin systems that are important for cocaine's rewarding and locomotor stimulatory properties. Human genomic markers within or near the BDNF locus have been linked to or associated with substance abuse. Post-mortem human brain specimens reveal individual differences in the levels of BDNF mRNA and in mRNA splicing patterns. To assess the effects of lifelong alterations in the levels of BDNF expression on a measure of psychostimulant reward, we have compared locomotor stimulant and rewarding effects of cocaine in heterozygous BDNF knockout mice with effects in their wild-type littermates. Heterozygous BDNF knockout mice displayed less locomotion during habituation and less locomotion after cocaine injections. Cocaine-conditioned place preferences were reduced in the BDNF heterozygotes. These mice displayed no significant difference from saline control values at a dose of 10 mg/kg s.c. cocaine, although they exhibited cocaine-induced preference at a 20 mg/kg dose. These data confirm important roles for BDNF in psychostimulant actions, presumably via neurotrophic effects on dopamine and serotonin systems. Furthermore, these data support suggestions that differences in human BDNF expression may underlie associations between markers near the human BDNF gene locus and drug addiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1485-1490
Number of pages6
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Conditioned place preference
  • Dopamine
  • Gene knockout
  • Serotonin
  • Transgenic mice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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