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Neuroreport. 1999 Sep 29;10(14):3015-9.

Social defeat stress increases expression of mu-opioid receptor mRNA in rat ventral tegmental area.

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Department of Psychiatry, Tufts University, New England Medical Center, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Prompted by previous studies linking social defeat stress to changes in opioid antinociception, we evaluated the expression of mu-opioid receptor (MOR)-encoding mRNA in selected rat brain areas as a function of this type of stress. Because opioids mediate significant regulatory activities of brain dopamine neurons, dopaminergic loci in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and substantia nigra (SN) were selected for analysis. Within 30 min after social defeat stress, the level of MOR-encoding mRNA, as detected and quantified by in situ hybridization histochemistry, increased in the lateral VTA and this increase was present for at least 6 h. In contrast, defeat stress was without effect on the expression of MOR-encoding mRNA in the SN. These data suggest that stress-induced alteration of MOR-encoding mRNA expression in the VTA may be involved in the consequences of social defeat stress.

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