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Eur J Pharmacol. 2008 May 31;586(1-3):179-88. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2008.02.035. Epub 2008 Feb 19.

Acute and chronic heroin dependence in mice: contribution of opioid and excitatory amino acid receptors.

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Neuropsychology Doctoral Subprogram, Queens College, City University of New York, Flushing, NY 11367, USA.


Opioid and excitatory amino acid receptors contribute to morphine dependence, but there are no studies of their role in heroin dependence. Thus, mice injected with acute or chronic heroin doses in the present study were pretreated with one of the following selective antagonists: 7-benzylidenenaltrexone (BNTX), naltriben (NTB), nor-binaltorphimine (nor-BNI; delta1, delta2, and kappa opioid receptors, respectively), MK-801, or LY293558 (NMDA and AMPA excitatory amino acid receptors, respectively). Naloxone-precipitated withdrawal jumping frequency, shown here to be a reliable index of heroin dependence magnitude, was reduced by BNTX or NTB in mice injected with both acute and chronic heroin doses. In contrast, nor-BNI did not alter jumping frequencies in mice injected with an acute heroin dose but significantly increased them in mice receiving chronic heroin injections. Continuous MK-801 or LY293558 infusion, but not injection, reduced jumping frequencies during withdrawal from acute heroin treatment. Their delivery by injection was nonetheless effective against chronic heroin dependence, suggesting mechanisms not simply attributable to NMDA or AMPA blockade. These data indicate that whereas delta1, delta2, NMDA, and AMPA receptors enable acute and chronic heroin dependence, kappa receptor activity limits the dependence liability of chronic heroin. With the exception of delta1 receptors, the apparent role of these receptors to heroin dependence is consistent with their contribution to morphine dependence, indicating that there is substantial physiological commonality underlying dependence to both heroin and morphine. The ability of kappa receptor blockade to differentially alter acute and chronic dependence supports previous assertions from studies with other opioids that acute and chronic opioid dependence are, at least in part, mechanistically distinct. Elucidating the substrates contributing to heroin dependence, and identifying their similarities and differences with those of other opioids such as morphine, may yield effective treatment strategies to the problem of heroin dependency.

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