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J Neurosci. 1998 Mar 1;18(5):1671-8.

mu-Opioid peptides inhibit thalamic neurons.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University Medical Center, 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland.


Opioidergic inhibition of neurons in the centrolateral nucleus of the thalamus was investigated using an in vitro thalamic slice preparation from young rats. The mu-opioid receptor agonist D-Ala2,N-Me-Phe4,glycinol5-enkephalin (DAMGO) evoked a hyperpolarization and decrease in input resistance that was reversible, concentration-dependent, and persisted in the presence of tetrodotoxin. Application of the specific mu-receptor antagonist Cys2,Tyr3,Orn5,Pen7-amide blocked this response. The respective delta- and kappa-opioid receptor agonists, (D-Pen2, D-Pen5)-enkephalin and (+/-)-trans-U-50488 methanesulfonate had no effect. Voltage-clamp experiments showed that DAMGO activated an inwardly rectifying potassium conductance (GKIR) characterized by rectification at hyperpolarized potentials that increased in elevated extracellular potassium concentrations, a complete block by Ba2+ (1 mM), and a voltage-dependent block by Cs+. The extent of mu-opioid inhibition in other thalamic nuclei was then investigated. Widespread inhibition similar to that seen in the centrolateral nucleus was observed in a number of sensory, motor, intralaminar, and midline nuclei. Our results suggest that the net action of opioids would depend on their source: exogenous (systemically administered) opiates inhibiting the entire thalamus and favoring the shift of cell firing from tonic to bursting mode; and endogenously released opioids acting on specific thalamic nuclei, their release depending on the origin of the presynaptic input.

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