Exposure to drug-paired cues causes drug memories to be in a destabilized state and interfering with memory reconsolidation can inhibit relapse. Calpain, a calcium-dependent neutral cysteine protease, is involved in synaptic plasticity and the formation of long-term fear memory. However, the role of calpain in the reconsolidation of drug reward memory is still unknown. In the present study, using a conditioned place preference (CPP) model, we found that exposure to drug-paired contextual stimuli induced the activation of calpain and decreased the expression of glutamate receptor interacting protein 1 (GRIP1) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) core, but not shell, of male rats. Infusions of calpain inhibitors in the NAc core immediately after retrieval disrupted the reconsolidation of cocaine/morphine cue memory and blocked retrieval-induced calpain activation and GRIP1 degradation. The suppressive effect of calpain inhibitors on the expression of drug-induced CPP lasted for at least 14 d. The inhibition of calpain without retrieval 6 h after retrieval or after exposure to an unpaired context had no effects on the expression of reward memory. Calpain inhibition after retrieval also decreased cocaine seeking in a self-administration model and this effect did not recover spontaneously after 28 d. Moreover, the knock-down of GRIP1 expression in the NAc core by lentivirus-mediated short-hairpin RNA blocked disruption of the reconsolidation of drug cue memories that was induced by calpain inhibitor treatment. These results suggest that calpain activity in the NAc core is crucial for the reconsolidation of drug reward memory via the regulation of GRIP1 expression.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Calpain plays an important role in synaptic plasticity and long-term memory consolidation, however, its role in the reconsolidation of drug cue memory remains unknown. Using conditioned place preference and self-administration procedures, we found that exposure to drug-paired cues induced the activation of calpain and decreased glutamate receptor interacting protein 1 (GRIP1) expression in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) core. The inhibition of calpain activity in the NAc core immediately after retrieval disrupted the reconsolidation of cocaine/morphine cue memory that was blocked by prior GRIP1 knock-down. Our findings indicate that calpain-GRIP signaling is essential for the restabilization process that is associated with drug cue memory and the inhibition of calpain activity may be a novel strategy for the prevention of drug relapse.