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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Jun 23;95(13):7742-7.

Dopamine-dependent responses to morphine depend on glucocorticoid receptors.

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  • 1Psychobiologie des Comportements Adaptatifs, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Unité 259, Université de Bordeaux II, Domaine de Carreire, Rue Camille Saint-Saëns, 33077 Bordeaux cedex, France.


Previous work has shown that glucocorticoid hormones facilitate the behavioral and dopaminergic effects of morphine. In this study we examined the possible role in these effects of the two central corticosteroid receptor types: mineralocorticoid receptor (MR), and glucocorticoid receptor (GR). To accomplish this, specific antagonists of these receptors were infused intracerebroventricularly and 2 hr later we measured: (i) locomotor activity induced by a systemic injection of morphine (2 mg/kg); (ii) locomotor activity induced by an infusion of morphine (1 microg per side) into the ventral tegmental area, which is a dopamine-dependent behavioral response to morphine; (iii) morphine-induced dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens, a dopaminergic projection site mediating the locomotor and reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse. Blockade of MRs by spironolactone had no significant effects on locomotion induced by systemic morphine. In contrast, blockade of GRs by either RU38486 or RU39305, which is devoid of antiprogesterone effects, reduced the locomotor response to morphine, and this effect was dose dependent. GR antagonists also reduced the locomotor response to intraventral tegmental area morphine as well as the basal and morphine-induced increase in accumbens dopamine, as measured by microdialysis in freely moving rats. In contrast, spironolactone did not modify dopamine release. In conclusion, glucocorticoids, via GRs, facilitate the dopamine-dependent behavioral effects of morphine, probably by facilitating dopamine release. The possibility of decreasing the behavioral and dopaminergic effects of opioids by an acute administration of GR antagonists may open new therapeutic strategies for treatment of drug addiction.

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