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Life Sci. 2000 Apr 7;66(20):1915-27.

Opioid propeptide mRNA content and receptor density in the brains of AA and ANA rats.

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Department of Psychiatry, Douglas Hospital Research Center and McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Recent evidence has indicated an association between the rewarding effects of ethanol intake and endogenous opioid activity. The present studies examine the presence of differences in opioid peptide mRNA content and mu and kappa opioid receptor densities, between ethanol naive AA and ANA rats bred selectively for their high and low alcohol consumption, respectively. In situ hybridization was used to compare the content of proopiomelanocortin, proenkephalin and prodynorphin mRNA in distinct brain regions known to be involved in the reinforcing properties of addictive drugs, between rats from each line. Results indicated that AA rats had a significantly greater content of proopiomelanocortin mRNA in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, of proenkephalin mRNA in the prefrontal cortex and of prodynorphin mRNA in the mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus (p < or = .05). Receptor autoradiography was performed using 3H-labeled ligands specific for mu and kappa opioid receptors. AA rats were found to have a greater density of mu opioid receptors in the shell region of the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex, but a lower density of kappa opioid receptors in the ventromedial hypothalamus, compared to ANA rats. The present data demonstrate the presence of inherited differences in the activity of distinct components of the endogenous opioid system in some brain regions associated with the processes of reward and reinforcement; and as such, may play a role in determining differences in ethanol drinking between AA and ANA rats.

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