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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2019 Jun 3;22(6):394-401. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyz014.

Morphine-Induced Dendritic Spine Remodeling in Rat Nucleus Accumbens Is Corticosterone Dependent.

Geoffroy H1,2,3, Canestrelli C1,2,3, Marie N1,2,3, Noble F1,2,3.

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Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France.
Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, France.
Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France.



Chronic morphine treatments produce important morphological changes in multiple brain areas including the nucleus accumbens.


In this study, we have investigated the effect of chronic morphine treatment at a relatively low dose on the morphology of medium spiny neurons in the core and shell of the nucleus accumbens in rats 1 day after the last injection of a chronic morphine treatment (5 mg/kg once per day for 14 days). Medium spiny neurons were labeled with 1,1' dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate crystal and analyzed by confocal laser-scanning microscope.


Our results show an increase of thin spines and a decrease of stubby spines specifically in the shell of morphine-treated rats compared with control. Since morphine-treated rats also presented an elevation of corticosterone level in plasma, we explored whether spine alterations induced by morphine treatment in the nucleus accumbens could be affected by the depletion of the hormone. Thus, bilaterally adrenalectomized rats were treated with morphine in the same conditions. No more alteration in stubby spines in the shell was detected in morphine-treated rats with a depletion of corticosterone, while a significant increase was observed in mushroom spines in the shell and stubby spines in the core. Regarding the thin spines, the increase observed with morphine compared with saline was lower in adrenalectomized rats than in nonadrenalectomized animals.


These results indicate that dendritic spine remodeling in nucleus accumbens following chronic morphine treatment at relatively low doses is dependent on corticosterone levels.


adrenalectomy; dendritic spines; morphine; nucleus accumbens core; nucleus accumbens shell

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