Sadakierska-Chudy A. et al.
Drug craving and relapse risk during abstinence from cocaine are thought to be caused by persistent changes in transcription and chromatin regulation. Although several brain regions are involved in these processes, the hippocampus seems to play an important role in context-evoked craving and drug-seeking behavior. Only a few studies have examined epigenetic alterations during a period of cocaine abstinence. To investigate the effects of cocaine abstinence on DNA methylation and gene expression, rats that self-administered the drug underwent cocaine abstinence in two time points with extinction training. During the cocaine extinction, we observed elevated global 5-hydroxymethylcytosine(5-hmC) levels with a concurrent increase in Tet3 transcript levels. Moreover, we did not find significant alterations in the levels of Tet3 mRNA and 5-hmC in rats subjected to cocaine abstinence without extinction training. Additionally, our findings demonstrated that the expression of Tet3 target genes was activated. Besides, altered DNA methylation was detected at promoter regions of miRNAs, such as miR-30d and miR-let7i. Further in silico analysis provided evidence that these two molecules targeted the 3' UTR region of the Tet3 gene and thus may contribute to its post-transcriptional regulation. This study has presented novel findings in the hippocampus of rats that underwent extinction training following cocaine self-administration. The alterations in the Tet3 gene expression and the level of 5-hmC may play an important role in extinction learning and the reduction of subsequent cocaine seeking.