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Brain Res. 1983 Dec 19;289(1-2):223-34.

Chronic naltrexone increases opiate binding in brain and produces supersensitivity to morphine in the locus coeruleus of the rat.


Rats were implanted subcutaneously for 2-4 weeks with slow-release pellets of naltrexone (10 mg) or placebo and then the pellets were removed. One day after removal of the pellet, animals were either (1) sacrificed and various CNS regions examined for specific binding of [3H]naloxone, [3H]etorphine or [3H]rauwolscine or (2) they were anesthetized and prepared acutely for assessing morphine-induced changes in the spontaneous activity of neurons in the locus coeruleus (LC). Naltrexone treatment significantly increased the number of specific binding sites for opiates, but not for alpha 2-adrenergic antagonists, in spinal cord, hypothalamus, striatum and cortex. Specific binding of [3H]naloxone was also increased in the LC. The spontaneous activity of neurons in the LC was reduced by the chronic naltrexone treatment, suggesting that these neurons became supersensitive to the tonic inhibitory effect of endogenous opioid peptides. Moreover, neurons in the LC of chronic naltrexone-treated rats exhibited an enhanced response to the inhibitory effects of morphine administered systemically. These results demonstrate that chronic opiate receptor blockade increases the number of receptor sites for morphine and that this increase in receptors is accompanied by a neuronal supersensitivity in the LC to morphine which can be assessed electrophysiologically.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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