Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Role of Astrocytes and Astrocytic Networks in Drug Abuse
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

June 8, 2020

First Available Due Date:
October 05, 2020
Expiration Date:
September 08, 2023

Related Announcements

PA-20-185 - NIH Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
PA-20-184 - NIH Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Basic Experimental Studies with Humans Required)
PA-20-194 - NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (Parent R21 Clinical Trial Required)
PA-20-196 - NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (Parent R21 Basic Experimental Studies with Humans Required)
PA-20-195 - NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (Parent R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

Issued by

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)


The purpose of this Notice is to inform potential applicants of NIDA’s interest in research project grant submissions that examine the effects of drugs of abuse on the function and functional roles of astrocytes, the structural connectivity of astrocytic networks, the generation, processing and spatiotemporal control of astrocytic activity within these networks, and the consequent effects of changes in astrocyte activity due to drugs of abuse on neuronal structure and function.


Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disorder, marked by distinct phases of development, including initiation to repeated use, drug escalation and maintenance, acute and protracted withdrawal and relapse. We are beginning to appreciate the short- and long-term neuronal adaptations that occur throughout this trajectory that underlie the expression of addictive behaviors. It is also recognized that astrocytes are both critical support cells that populate the entire nervous system and are increasingly being appreciated as key players in modulating neuronal function within the central nervous system (CNS). As such, astrocytes may be significant contributors in the development of addictive behaviors. Astrocytes provide metabolic support, create homeostasis in the extracellular environment, and maintain the optimal neuronal circuit function. Astrocytes orchestrate synaptic plasticity. They envelop synapses and actively regulate synaptogenesis, regulate synapse pruning and maturation, contact axonal nodes of Ranvier, and form gap junctions between neighboring astrocytes to conduct calcium wave communications. Astrocytes exert dynamic interplay with inflammatory cells and control immune responses in the CNS. Astrocytes also play significant roles on neuroimmune communication. At the blood brain barrier, astrocyte end feet form tight junctions to restrict migrations of the inflammatory cells through the nervous system. Recent studies provide evidence for a mechanistic role of astrocyte activities in drug addiction. Cocaine exposures induce astrocyte morphology changes and affect astrocytic localization at synapses, these activities are regional heterogenous within the reward circuitry.Other studies show that astrocytes within the nucleus accumbens regulate drug reward signaling by responding to dopamine, and change drug seeking behaviors by modulating synaptogenesis. Together with studies focused on neuronal function, astrocyte-oriented research is considered highly relevant, as both neurons and astrocytes are potential contributors to drug dependence and addiction.

Research Objectives

NIDA seeks to stimulate basic and preclinical research that will enhance the understanding of the consequences of drugs of abuse on astrocyte function, astrocyte-neuronal interactions and synaptic plasticity within the nervous system.Research projects from a broad range of scientific disciplines, using genetic, molecular, cellular or systems levels of analysis are encouraged.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is issuing this Notice to highlight interest in receiving grant applications focused on research areas that include:

  • Determine the role of astroglia adaptations in the neuropathology of drug abuse, including neurotransmission, synaptic plasticity, and cellular communications with other CNS resident cells.
  • Apply genetic and pharmacological approaches to characterize the effects of drugs of abuse on the regulation of astrocyte and astrocytic networks.
  • Examine the dynamic interplay between astrocytes and inflammatory cells in the context of drug abuse-induced neural immune activation.
  • Identify the effects of drugs of abuse acting on astrocytes in cognition and behavior.
  • Examine the contributions of addictive substances on astrocyte-mediated guidance and regulation of neurodevelopment.

Application and Submission Information

This notice applies to due dates on or after October 5, 2020 and subsequent receipt dates through September 8, 2023.

Submit applications for this initiative using one of the following funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) or any reissues of these announcement through the expiration date of this notice

  • PA-20-185: NIH Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
  • PA-20-184: NIH Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Basic Experimental Studies with Humans Required)
  • PA-20-194, Parent R21 Exploratory/Developmental Grant,Clinical Trial Required
  • PA-20-196, Parent R21 Exploratory/Developmental Grant,Basic Experimental Studies with Humans Required
  • PA-20-195, Parent R21 Exploratory/Developmental Grant, Clinical Trial Not Allowed

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and the funding opportunity announcement used for submission must be followed, with the following additions:

  • For funding consideration, applicants must include “NOT-DA-20-060"(without quotation marks) in the Agency Routing Identifier field (box 4B) of the SF424 R&R form. Applications without this information in box 4B will not be considered for this initiative.
Applications nonresponsive to terms of this NOSI will be not be considered for the NOSI initiative.


Please direct all inquiries to the contacts in Section VII of the listed funding opportunity announcements with the following additions/substitutions:

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

Shang-Yi Anne Tsai
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Telephone: 301-827-5842


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