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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2008 Mar;33(4):877-91. Epub 2007 May 23.

Endogenous nociceptin (orphanin FQ) suppresses basal hedonic state and acute reward responses to methamphetamine and ethanol, but facilitates chronic responses.

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Neuronal Circuit Mechanisms Research Group, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Wakoshi, Saitama, Japan.


The opioid peptide nociceptin (orphanin FQ) suppresses drug reward, drug self-administration, and impedes some of the processes believed to underlie the transition to addiction. As virtually all previous studies have used administration of nociceptin receptor agonists to evaluate the role of nociceptin on addiction-like behavior, the current study used a pharmacological (nociceptin receptor antagonist) and genetic (nociceptin receptor knockout mice) approach to elucidate the role of endogenous nociceptin. The nociceptin receptor antagonist UFP-101 induced a modest place preference, and enhanced the conditioned place preference induced by methamphetamine. In agreement with this, nociceptin receptor knockout mice had slightly enhanced methamphetamine and ethanol conditioned place preferences compared to wild-type mice. This effect did not appear to depend on differences in learning ability, as nociceptin receptor knockout mice had slightly weaker-conditioned place aversions to lithium chloride, the kappa-opioid receptor agonist, U50488H, and the general opiate antagonist, naloxone. The development of behavioral sensitization to methamphetamine was lower in nociceptin receptor knockout mice, and attenuated by UFP-101 administration to wild-type mice. Additionally, ethanol consumption and preference in a two-bottle choice test was lower in nociceptin receptor knockout mice, though ethanol-stimulated locomotion was stronger. Whereas the rewarding effect of methamphetamine and ethanol following chronic treatment, as measured by place conditioning, strengthened in wild-type mice, this effect was absent in nociceptin receptor knockout mice. These results suggest that endogenous N/OFQ suppresses basal and drug-stimulated increases in hedonic state, and plays either a permissive or facilitatory role in the development of addiction.

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