Drug addiction is a serious brain disorder with somatic, psychological, psychiatric, socio-economic and legal implications in the developed world. Illegal (e.g., psychostimulants, opioids, cannabinoids) and legal (alcohol, nicotine) drugs of abuse create a complex behavioral pattern
composed of drug intake, withdrawal, seeking and relapse. One of the hallmarks of drugs that are abused by humans is that they have different mechanisms of action to increase dopamine (DA) neurotransmission within the mesolimbic circuitry of the brain and indirectly activate DA receptors.
Among the DA receptors, D2 receptors are linked to drug abuse and addiction because their function has been proven to be correlated with drug reinforcement and relapses. The recognition that D2 receptors exist not only as homomers but also can form heteromers, such as with the adenosine (A)2A
receptor, that are pharmacologically and functionally distinct from their constituent receptors, has significantly expanded the range of potential drug targets and provided new avenues for drug design in the search for novel drug addiction therapies. The aim of this review is to bring current
focus on A2A receptors, their physiology and pharmacology in the central nervous system, and to discuss the therapeutic relevance of these receptors to drug addiction. We concentrate on the contribution of A2A receptors to the effects of different classes of drugs of abuse examined in preclinical
behavioral experiments carried out with pharmacological and genetic tools. The consequences of chronic drug treatment on A2A receptor-assigned functions in preclinical studies are also presented. Finally, the neurochemical mechanism of the interaction between A2A receptors and drugs of abuse
in the context of the heteromeric A2A-D2 receptor complex is discussed. Taken together, a significant amount of experimental analyses provide evidence that targeting A2A receptors may offer innovative translational strategies for combating drug addiction.
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