μ-Opioid receptors in the stimulation of mesolimbic dopamine activity by ethanol and morphine in Long-Evans rats: A delayed effect of ethanol

John P. Valenta, Martin O. Job, Regina A. Mangieri, Christina J. Schier, Elaina C. Howard, Rueben A. Gonzales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Rationale: Naltrexone, a non-selective opioid antagonist, decreases the euphoria and positive subjective responses to alcohol in heavy drinkers. It has been proposed that the μ-opioid receptor plays a role in ethanol reinforcement through modulation of ethanol-stimulated mesolimbic dopamine release. Objectives: To investigate the ability of naltrexone and β-funaltrexamine, an irreversible μ-opioid specific antagonist, to inhibit ethanol-stimulated and morphine-stimulated mesolimbic dopamine release, and to determine whether opioid receptors on mesolimbic neurons contribute to these mechanisms. Methods: Ethanol-naïve male Long Evans rats were given opioid receptor antagonists either intravenously, subcutaneously, or intracranially into the ventral tegmental area (VTA), followed by intravenous administration of ethanol or morphine. We measured extracellular dopamine in vivo using microdialysis probes inserted into the nucleus accumbens shell (n = 114). Results: Administration of naltrexone (intravenously) and β-funaltrexamine (subcutaneously), as well as intracranial injection of naltrexone into the VTA did not prevent the initiation of dopamine release by intravenous ethanol administration, but prevented it from being as prolonged. In contrast, morphine-stimulated mesolimbic dopamine release was effectively suppressed. Conclusions: Our results provide novel evidence that there are two distinct mechanisms that mediate ethanol-stimulated mesolimbic dopamine release (an initial phase and a delayed phase), and that opioid receptor activation is required to maintain the delayed-phase dopamine release. Moreover, μ-opioid receptors account for this delayed-phase dopamine response, and the VTA is potentially the site of action of this mechanism. We conclude that μ-opioid receptors play different roles in the mechanisms of stimulation of mesolimbic dopamine activity by ethanol and morphine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-400
Number of pages12
JournalPsychopharmacology
Volume228
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology

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