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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2010 Mar;35(4):955-66. doi: 10.1038/npp.2009.199. Epub 2009 Dec 2.

Modulation of opiate-related signaling molecules in morphine-dependent conditioned behavior: conditioned place preference to morphine induces CREB phosphorylation.

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Department of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA.


Opiate addiction is a chronic, relapsing behavioral disorder where learned associations that develop between the abused opiate and the environment in which it is consumed are brought about through Pavlovian (classical) conditioning processes. However, the signaling mechanisms/pathways regulating the mechanisms that underlie the responses to opiate-associated cues or the development of sensitization as a consequence of repeated context-independent administration of opiates are unknown. In this study we examined the phosphorylation levels of various classic signaling molecules in brain regions implicated in addictive behaviors after acute and repeated morphine administration. An unbiased place conditioning protocol was used to examine changes in phosphorylation that are associated with (1) the expression of the rewarding effects of morphine and (2) the sensitization that develops to this effect. We also examined the effects of a delta-receptor antagonist on morphine-induced conditioned behavior and on the phosphorylation of classic signaling molecules in view of data showing that blockade of delta-opioid receptor (deltaOR) prevents the development of sensitization to the rewarding effects of morphine. We find that CREB phosphorylation is specifically induced upon the expression of a sensitized response to morphine-induced conditioned behavior in brain areas related to memory consolidation, such as the hippocampus and cortex. A similar effect is also observed, albeit to a lesser extent, in the case of the GluR1 subunit of AMPA glutamate receptor. These increases in the phosphorylation levels of CREB and pGluR1 are significantly blocked by pretreatment with a deltaOR antagonist. These results indicate a critical role for phospho-CREB, AMPA, and deltaOR activities in mediating the expression of a sensitized response to morphine-dependent conditioned behavior.

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