In humans, elevations of mu opioid receptor (MOP-r) binding potential (BP) in the frontal cortex (FC) are associated with cocaine craving during early abstinence. In rats, decreases in dopaminergic (DAergic) transmission in the medial FC are associated with increased cocaine-seeking behavior. DA D1 or D3 receptor homozygous knockout (D1-/- or D3-/-) mice offer the opportunity to test the roles of these specific receptors in regulating MOP-r gene expression in response to cocaine. In the present studies, we found an increase in basal MOP-r mRNA levels in the FC of both D1-/- and D3-/- mice compared to wild type controls, with no change in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) core or caudate-putamen (CPu). Acute "binge" cocaine (3 × 15 mg/kg for 2.5 h) returned FC MOP-r mRNA levels in D1-/- or D3-/- mice to those in wild type controls. In the NAc core, the MOP-r mRNA levels after acute "binge" cocaine were decreased in D1-/- mice while increased in D3-/- mice. In the CPu, however, the MOP-r mRNA levels after acute "binge" cocaine were increased in D1-/- mice while decreased in D3-/- mice. We also found a decrease in basal orexin mRNA levels in the lateral hypothalamus of the D3-/- mice, which was unaltered by acute "binge" cocaine. Together, our findings suggest that: (1) both D1 and D3 receptors are involved in FC MOP-r gene regulation; and (2) D1 and D3 receptors play opposite roles in the effects of cocaine on MOP-r gene regulation differentially in the NAc core or CPu. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.