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J Neurosci. 2014 Jan 8;34(2):527-38. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2838-13.2014.

Hippocampal long-term potentiation is disrupted during expression and extinction but is restored after reinstatement of morphine place preference.

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Department of Anesthesiology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, Department of Anesthesiology, Division of Basic Research, Department of Anatomy-Neurobiology, and Washington University Pain Center, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.


Learned associations between environmental cues and morphine use play an important role in the maintenance and/or relapse of opioid addiction. Although previous studies suggest that context-dependent morphine treatment alters glutamatergic transmission and synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, their role in morphine conditioned place preference (CPP) and reinstatement remains unknown. We investigated changes in synaptic plasticity and NMDAR expression in the hippocampus after the expression, extinction, and reinstatement of morphine CPP. Here we report that morphine CPP is associated with increased basal synaptic transmission, impaired hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP), and increased synaptic expression of the NR1 and NR2b NMDAR subunits. Changes in synaptic plasticity, synaptic NR1 and NR2b expression, and morphine CPP were absent when morphine was not paired with a specific context. Furthermore, hippocampal LTP was impaired and synaptic NR2b expression was increased after extinction of morphine CPP, indicating that these alterations in plasticity may be involved in the mechanisms underlying the learning of drug-environment associations. After extinction of morphine CPP, a priming dose of morphine was sufficient to reinstate morphine CPP and was associated with LTP that was indistinguishable from saline control groups. In contrast, morphine CPP extinguished mice that received a saline priming dose did not show CPP and had disrupted hippocampal LTP. Finally, we found that reinstatement of morphine CPP was prevented by the selective blockade of the NR2b subunit in the hippocampus. Together, these data suggest that alterations in synaptic plasticity and glutamatergic transmission play an important role in the reinstatement of morphine CPP.


CPP; LTP; NMDA; hippocampus; morphine; plasticity

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