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Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Apr 15;67(8):761-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.08.041. Epub 2009 Nov 14.

Brain region specific actions of regulator of G protein signaling 4 oppose morphine reward and dependence but promote analgesia.

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Department of Psychiatry, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA.



Regulator of G protein signaling 4 (RGS4) is one of the smaller members of the RGS family of proteins, which are known to control signaling amplitude and duration via interactions with G protein alpha subunits or other signaling molecules. Earlier evidence suggests dynamic regulation of RGS4 levels in neuronal networks mediating actions of opiates and other drugs of abuse, but the consequences of RGS4 actions in vivo are largely unknown.


In this study, we use constitutive and nucleus accumbens-inducible RGS4 knockout mice as well as mice overexpressing RGS4 in the nucleus accumbens via viral mediated gene transfer, to examine the influence of RGS4 on behavioral responses to opiates. We also use electrophysiology and immunoprecipitation assays to further understand the mechanisms underlying the tissue-specific actions of RGS4.


Inducible knockout or selective overexpression of RGS4 in the nucleus accumbens reveals that, in this brain region, RGS4 acts as a negative regulator of morphine reward, whereas in the locus coeruleus RGS4 opposes morphine physical dependence. In contrast, we show that RGS4 does not affect morphine analgesia or tolerance but is a positive modulator of certain opiate analgesics, such as methadone and fentanyl.


These findings provide fundamentally novel information concerning the role of RGS4 in the cellular mechanisms underlying the diverse actions of opiate drugs in the nervous system.

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