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Eur J Neurosci. 2009 Jan;29(1):55-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06560.x. Epub 2008 Dec 11.

Extinction of morphine-dependent conditioned behavior is associated with increased phosphorylation of the GluR1 subunit of AMPA receptors at hippocampal synapses.

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Center for Addiction Research, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555, USA.


In abstinent opiate addicts, relapse can be triggered by exposure to environmental cues associated with drug use; thus, the disruption of these learned associations may be an effective approach for reducing relapse. Interestingly, glutamatergic systems are thought to be involved in opiate-induced behavioral plasticity. In this study, changes in expression and phosphorylation levels of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) glutamate receptor subunits (GluR1, GluR2) in the hippocampus were investigated in rats showing a conditioned response (CR) to an opiate-paired environment as well as in animals in which this conditioned behavior was extinguished. Additionally, another set of animals went through a drug-unpaired paradigm (without conditioning) in order to examine the effects of the pharmacology of the drug itself. Subcellular fractionation techniques were used to analyse the local distribution of AMPA glutamate subunits within the synapse, especially at the postsynaptic density (PSD). Results showed that morphine-dependent CRs did not alter expression or redistribution of GluR1 or GluR2; however, the unpaired administration of morphine resulted in an increase in the phosphorylation of the GluR1 subunit at extrasynaptic sites. Interestingly, the extinction of the CR significantly increased phosphorylation of the GluR1 subunit at the PSD. Therefore we propose that, within the synapse, the phosphorylation of the GluR1 subunit at the PSD may be a key mechanism in the extinction of opiate-associated CRs.

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