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J Neurosci. 2003 Nov 12;23(32):10265-73.

Enhanced rewarding properties of morphine, but not cocaine, in beta(arrestin)-2 knock-out mice.

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Department of Pharmacology, The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


The reinforcing and psychomotor effects of morphine involve opiate stimulation of the dopaminergic system via activation of mu-opioid receptors (muOR). Both mu-opioid and dopamine receptors are members of the G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) family of proteins. GPCRs are known to undergo desensitization involving phosphorylation of the receptor and the subsequent binding of beta(arrestins), which prevents further receptor-G-protein coupling. Mice lacking beta(arrestin)-2 (beta(arr2)) display enhanced sensitivity to morphine in tests of pain perception attributable to impaired desensitization of muOR. However, whether abrogating muOR desensitization affects the reinforcing and psychomotor properties of morphine has remained unexplored. In the present study, we examined this question by assessing the effects of morphine and cocaine on locomotor activity, behavioral sensitization, conditioned place preference, and striatal dopamine release in beta(arr2) knock-out (beta(arr2)-KO) mice and their wild-type (WT) controls. Cocaine treatment resulted in very similar neurochemical and behavioral responses between the genotypes. However, in the beta(arr2)-KO mice, morphine induced more pronounced increases in striatal extracellular dopamine than in WT mice. Moreover, the rewarding properties of morphine in the conditioned place preference test were greater in the beta(arr2)-KO mice when compared with the WT mice. Thus, beta(arr2) appears to play a more important role in the dopaminergic effects mediated by morphine than those induced by cocaine.

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