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Pharmacol Res. 2011 Oct;64(4):350-8. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2011.05.013. Epub 2011 Jun 16.

The golden years: a tribute to Erminio Costa.

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Department of Pharmacology, Division of Molecular Neuropsychopharmacology, The Ohio State University College of Medicine, 5067 Graves Hall, 333 W. 10th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, United States.


In June of 1968 the NIMH established the Laboratory of Preclinical Pharmacology (LPP) under the leadership of Erminio Costa at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC. From its inception until 1985 more than 170 scientists produced over 800 scientific publications that largely influenced the direction of neuroscience research. Under Dr. Costa's scientific guidance LPP made numerous discoveries that contributed to the understanding of neuronal function and push the fledging field of neuroscience forward. Methods were developed to measure the turnover rate of catecholamines, serotonin, acetylcholine and GABA, and to assess the dynamic state of neuronal stores of peptides; the regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase activity was revealed; the molecular mechanisms underlying neurotransmitter receptor signaling and regulation were explored; the concept that opioid peptides function as neuromodulators in structures that are not involved in pain threshold regulation was proposed; the role of GABAergic transmission for the action of benzodiazepines was pioneered; the endogenous mechanisms operative in opiate tolerance were elucidated; and approaches to measure mRNA and evaluate its regulation were introduced. As a tribute to Dr. Costa, this article presents the initial journey and the many contributions to teaching and research that he made from 1963 to 1985, a period that I worked with him and call it "the golden years".

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