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Physiol Behav. 2004 Aug;82(1):63-8.

Nociceptin/orphanin FQ acts as a functional antagonist of corticotropin-releasing factor to inhibit its anorectic effect.

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Department of Pharmacological Sciences and Experimental Medicine, University of Camerino, Via Scalzino 3, 62032 Camerino, MC, Italy.


Nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ), the endogenous ligand of the NOP opioid receptor (previously referred to as ORL1 or OP4 receptor), exerts a variety of behavioral effects. N/OFQ as well as the synthetic NOP receptor agonist Ro 64-6198 have been reported to possess antistress properties and to elicit a pronounced hyperphagic effect in freely feeding rats. These findings have raised our interest to investigate possible interactions in the control of ingestive behavior between N/OFQ and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), which is well known to be a major mediator of stress and to possess anorectic properties. These studies have shown that intracerebroventricular injections of N/OFQ or of Ro 64-6198 reverse the anorectic action evoked by intracerebroventricular administration of CRF. The anti-anorectic effect of N/OFQ or Ro 64-6198 is antagonized by the selective NOP receptor antagonist [Nphe1]N/OFQ1-13NH2, providing evidence that it is mediated by this receptor. The effect occurs at doses that are not hyperphagic per se and is clearly selective versus the anorectic action of CRF since N/OFQ or Ro 64-6198 do not influence the anorectic effect of Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Neither N/OFQ nor Ro 64-6198 shows affinity for CRF receptors, suggesting that NOP receptor agonists might act as functional antagonists of CRF with regard to its anorectic action. Microinjection studies have revealed that the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) is highly sensitive to the anorectic action of CRF, as well as to the anti-anorectic action of N/OFQ; pretreatment with 0.025-0.25 microg/site of N/OFQ into the BNST blocked the anorectic action of 0.1 microg/site of CRF given in the same area. On the other hand, intra-BNST microinjection of 0.025-0.25 microg/site of N/OFQ did not modify basal food intake. Thus, the BNST may be the site where the functional antagonism between N/OFQ and CRF takes place. These findings raise interest for the N/OFQ-NOP receptor system as a pharmacological target to block the anorectic effect of CRF. In comparison to CRF receptor antagonists, NOP receptor agonists may have the advantage of not inhibiting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

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