Chemical stimulation of the lateral hypothalamus potentiated the sensitization to morphine in rats: involvement of orexin-1 receptor in the ventral tegmental area.
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Orexin plays a crucial role in drug-seeking behavior. The lateral hypothalamus (LH) is a central region that produces orexin, and its projections to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) play an important role in reward and addiction-related behaviors. In this study, we investigated the role of LH stimulation and the involvement of the orexin-1 receptor (Ox1r) in the VTA in relation to morphine sensitization. In all animals, cannulae were implanted unilaterally into the LH and VTA to inject different doses of carbachol (62.5, 125 and 250 nmol/0.5 μl saline) as a cholinergic agonist and SB334867 (1, 10 and 20 nmol/0.3 µl DMSO) as a selective Ox1r antagonist for three consecutive days (sensitization period) respectively. These drugs were injected five minutes before administration of an ineffective dose of morphine (0.5 mg/kg; sc) during the sensitization period. In all groups, the sensitization period occurred in a separate room from which the conditioning occurred. After this period, all groups exceeded five days under the conditioned place preference (CPP) paradigm without any treatment. For evaluation of morphine sensitization, place preference was induced by ineffective dose of morphine (0.5 mg/kg) and the CPP score was represented by the difference in time spent in drug- and saline-paired compartments. The results revealed that concurrent intra-LH administration of carbachol (125 nmol/0.5 µl saline) and an ineffective dose of morphine (0.5 mg/kg) significantly induce CPP. Additionally, the blockade of Ox1r in the VTA by SB334867 can attenuate the conditioning score induced by concurrent administration of carbachol and an ineffective dose of morphine. Our findings suggest that LH stimulation potentiates the effect of an ineffective dose of morphine, and induces morphine sensitization. It seems that the chemical stimulation of LH potentiates sensitization to morphine through the orexinergic system in the VTA in rats.