Repeated exposure to cocaine produces an enduring increase in dendritic spine density in adult rat nucleus accumbens. It has been shown previously that chronic cocaine administration increases the expression of cyclin-dependent kinase-5 in this brain region and that this neuronal protein kinase regulates cocaine-induced locomotor activity. Moreover, cyclin-dependent kinase-5 has been implicated in neuronal function and synaptic plasticity. Therefore, we studied the involvement of this enzyme in cocaine's effect on dendritic spine density. Adult male rats, receiving intra-accumbens infusion of the cyclin-dependent kinase-5 inhibitor roscovitine or saline, were administered a 28-day cocaine treatment regimen. Animals were killed 24-48 h after the final cocaine injection and their brains removed and processed for Golgi-Cox impregnation. Our findings demonstrate that roscovitine attenuates cocaine-induced dendritic spine outgrowth in nucleus accumbens core and shell and such inhibition reduces spine density in nucleus accumbens shell of control animals. These data indicate that cyclin-dependent kinase-5 is involved in regulation of, as well as cocaine-induced changes in, dendritic spine density. © 2003 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.