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J Endocrinol. 2006 Oct;191(1):137-45.

Mu opioid receptor and orexin/hypocretin mRNA levels in the lateral hypothalamus and striatum are enhanced by morphine withdrawal.

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Laboratory of the Biology of Addictive Diseases, The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA.


In this study, we investigated the effects of acute morphine administration, chronic intermittent escalating-dose morphine administration and spontaneous withdrawal from chronic morphine on mRNA levels of mu opioid receptor (MOP-r), and the opioid peptides pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) and preprodynorphin (ppDyn) in several key brain regions of the rat, associated with drug reward and motivated behaviors: lateral hypothalamus (lat.hyp), nucleus accumbens (NAc) core, amygdala, and caudate-putamen (CPu). There was no effect on MOP-r mRNA levels in these brain regions 30 min after either a single injection of morphine (10 mg/kg, i.p.) or chronic intermittent escalating-dose morphine (from 7.5 mg/kg per day on day 1 up to 120 mg/kg per day on day 10). Activation of the stress-responsive hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis by 12 h withdrawal from chronic morphine was confirmed; both POMC mRNA levels in the anterior pituitary and plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone levels were significantly elevated. Under this withdrawal-related stress condition, there was an increase in MOP-r mRNA levels in the lat.hyp, NAc core, and CPu. Recent studies have demonstrated a novel role for the lat.hyp orexin (or hypocretin) activation in both drug-related positive rewarding, and withdrawal effects. Around 50% of lat.hyp orexin neurons express MOP-r. Therefore, we also examined the levels of lat.hyp orexin mRNA, and found them increased in morphine withdrawal, whereas there was no change in levels of the lat.hyp ppDyn mRNA, a gene coexpressed with the lat.hyp orexin. Our results show that there is an increase in MOP-r gene expression in a region-specific manner during morphine withdrawal, and support the hypothesis that increased lat.hyp orexin activity plays a role in morphine-withdrawal-related behaviors.

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