by Magendzo K, Bustos G.
Neuropsychopharmacology 2003 Mar;28(3):468-477
Repeated amphetamine administration results in behavioral sensitization, an enduring behavioral transformation expressed after short and long periods of withdrawal. To investigate the participation of the opioid system in amphetamine-induced behavioral sensitization, we studied the effect of naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist, on the expression of behavioral sensitization tested after short- (2 days) and long-term (14 days) withdrawal periods. In addition, using quantitative competitive RT-PCR, we examined the levels of &mgr;-opioid receptor (MOR) and delta-opioid receptor (DOR) mRNA in the nucleus accumbens shell (NAcSh) and ventral tegmental area (VTA) of behaviorally sensitized rats, at these two withdrawal times. This study showed that whereas naloxone did not modify the expression of behavioral sensitization tested after 2 days of withdrawal, it completely blocked the expression when tested after 14 days of withdrawal. DOR and MOR mRNA levels were not modified in the NAcSh of rats expressing behavioral sensitization after 2 or 14 days of withdrawal. Conversely, DOR and MOR mRNA levels were elevated in the VTA of animals expressing behavioral sensitization after 2 days of withdrawal. However, whereas DOR mRNA returned to control levels, MOR mRNA levels remained elevated in animals expressing behavioral sensitization after 14 days of withdrawal. These results indicate a striking difference between the role played by opioid receptors in the expression of amphetamine-induced behavioral sensitization, when tested after short- or long-term withdrawal periods. In addition, our results support the notion that repeated amphetamine-induced changes in opioid receptor expression may contribute to the perpetuation of psychostimulant abuse and/or relapse.