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J Neuroendocrinol. 2009 Nov;21(11):888-97. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2009.01912.x. Epub 2009 Sep 1.

Endogenous nociceptin / orphanin FQ system involvement in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis responses: relevance to models of inflammation.

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Department of Anatomy, School of Medical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.


Nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) peptide and its receptor (NOP) function in the neuromodulation of anxiety, stress and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity. We investigated the endogenous NOP system using the selective NOP antagonist, UFP-101, during the HPA axis response to bacterial endotoxin, lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Although i.c.v. N/OFQ (1 microg/rat) had no significant effect on LPS-induced (250 microg/rat i.p) plasma corticosterone release at 30 or 60 min post-i.c.v. injection, i.c.v. UFP-101 (1 microg/rat)/LPS significantly attenuated plasma adrenocorticotrophic hormone and corticosterone at the 30-min time-point compared to i.c.v saline (0.9%)/LPS. Parvocellular paraventricular nucleus (PVN) corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) and corticotrophic pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), but not parvocellular PVN arginine vasopressin (AVP), mRNA expression was significantly increased by LPS compared to non-LPS control. Intracerebroventricular UFP-101/LPS treatment was associated with increased POMC mRNA expression 4 h after injection and a clear trend towards increased parvocellular CRF mRNA. Furthermore, i.c.v. UFP-101 was selectively associated with an LPS-induced increase in parvocellular AVP mRNA, an effect that was absent in the i.c.v saline/LPS group. To determine whether LPS challenge was associated with compensatory changes in N/OFQ precursor or NOP receptor mRNAs, in a separate study, we undertook reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis of preproN/OFQ and NOP transcripts. In support of an endogenous role for central N/OFQ in inflammatory stress, we found that LPS significantly increased preproN/OFQ transcript expression in the hypothalamus 4 h after injection compared to the saline control. No changes in preproN/OFQ mRNA level in the hippocampus or basal forebrain (including bed nucleus of stria terminalis) were seen, albeit at 4 h. LPS was associated with a significant attenuation of NOP mRNA in the basal forebrain at 4 h, possibly as a compensatory response to increased N/OFQ release. Although the exact mechanisms require elucidation, the findings obtained in the present study provide evidence indicating that the endogenous NOP system is involved in the acute HPA axis response to immune challenge.

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