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Neuroscience. 1990;36(3):691-7.

Stimulation of hypothalamic opioid peptide release by lithium is mediated by opioid autoreceptors: evidence from a combined in vitro, ex vivo study.

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Department of Neuropharmacology, Max-Planck-Institut für Psychiatrie, Planegg-Martinsried, F.R.G.


The effect of both chronic and acute lithium treatment on hypothalamic opioid peptides was investigated. Acute treatment with lithium was found to stimulate the release of beta-endorphin, dynorphin and Met-enkephalin from perfused rat hypothalamic slices. Application of tetrodotoxin was found to have no effect upon the stimulation indicating it to be mediated at the nerve terminal level. The release of hypothalamic opioid peptides is known to be under the chronic control of a system of inhibitory autoreceptors. Blockade of these autoreceptors with, for example, the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone causes a release of all three opioid peptides. Simultaneous addition of naloxone and lithium was found to have no additive effect on the release of any opioid, suggesting lithium acts via an inhibition of the inhibitory autoreceptor. Preincubation with pertussis toxin prevented the lithium stimulation of dynorphin and Met-enkephalin, but not beta-endorphin, release, indicating lithium interacts with a G-protein to affect the autoreceptor controlling the release of dynorphin and Met-enkephalin. Chronic treatment with lithium in vivo (10 days) had no effect on the basal release or hypothalamic content of any of the opioids, but prevented the naloxone-stimulated release of dynorphin and Met-enkephalin in vitro. Long-term treatment with lithium would thus appear to inactivate the autoreceptor(s) controlling their release. These data demonstrate a lithium-stimulated release of hypothalamic beta-endorphin, Met-enkephalin and dynorphin, apparently mediated via an inhibition of the autoreceptors controlling their release. Chronic treatment with lithium permanently inactivated the autoreceptor(s) controlling the release of dynorphin and Met-enkephalin but not beta-endorphin. Lithium would appear to mediate its effects upon Met-enkephalin and dynorphin release via an interaction with a pertussis toxin-sensitive G-protein. The mechanisms underlying its release of beta-endorphin are at present uncertain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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