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Previous studies have shown that genetically selected Marchigian Sardinian alcohol-preferring (msP) rats consume excessive amounts of ethanol to self-medicate from negative moods and to relieve innate hypersensitivity to stress. This phenotype resembling a subset of alcohol use disorder (AUD) patients, appears to be linked to a dysregulation of the equilibrium between stress and antistress mechanisms in the extended amygdala. Here, comparing water and alcohol exposed msP and Wistar rats we evaluate the transcript expression of the anti-stress opioid-like peptide nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) and its receptor NOP as well as of dynorphin (DYN) and its cognate κ-opioid receptor (KOP). In addition, we measured the transcript levels of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), CRF receptor 1 (CRF1R), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and of the tropomyosin receptor kinase B receptor (Trk-B). Results showed an innately up-regulation of the CRFergic system, mediating negative mood and stress responses, as well as an inherent up-regulation of the anti-stress N/OFQ system, both in the amygdala (AMY) and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) of msP rats. The up-regulation of this latter system may reflect an attempt to buffer the negative condition elicited by the hyperactivity of pro-stress mechanisms since results showed that voluntary alcohol consumption dampened N/OFQ. Alcohol exposure also reduced the expression of dynorphin and CRF transmissions in the AMY of msP rats. In the BNST, alcohol intake led to a more complex reorganization of these systems increasing receptor transcripts in msP rats, along with an increase of CRF and a decrease of N/OFQ transcripts, respectively. Moreover, mimicking the effects of alcohol in the AMY we observed that the activation of NOP receptor by intracerebroventricular administration of N/OFQ in msP rats caused an increase of BDNF and a decrease of CRF transcripts. Our study indicates that both stress and anti-stress mechanisms are dysregulated in the extended AMY of msP rats. The voluntary alcohol drinking, as well as NOP agonism, have a significant impact on neuropeptidergic systems arrangement, bringing the systems back to normalization.


Francesca Felicia Caputi, Serena Stopponi, Laura Rullo, Martina Palmisano, Massimo Ubaldi, Sanzio Candeletti, Roberto Ciccocioppo, Patrizia Romualdi. Dysregulation of Nociceptin/Orphanin FQ and Dynorphin Systems in the Extended Amygdala of Alcohol Preferring Marchigian Sardinian (msP) Rats. International journal of molecular sciences. 2021 Feb 28;22(5)

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PMID: 33671048

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