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The nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ)-nociceptin opioid-like peptide (NOP) receptor system is widely distributed in the brain and pharmacological activation of this system revealed therapeutic potential in animal models of substance use disorder. Studies also showed that genetic deletion or pharmacological blockade of NOP receptors confer resistance to the development of alcohol abuse. Here, we have used a genetic and pharmacological approach to evaluate the therapeutic potential of NOP antagonism in smoking cessation. Constitutive NOP receptor knockout rats (NOP-/- ) and their wild-type counterparts (NOP+/+ ) were tested over a range of behaviours to characterize their motivation for nicotine. We next explored the effects of systemic administration of the NOP receptor antagonist LY2817412 (1.0 & 3.0 mg·kg-1 ) on nicotine self-administration. NOP receptor blockade was further evaluated at the brain circuitry level, by microinjecting LY2817412 (3.0 & 6.0 μg·μl-1 ) into the ventral tegmental area (VTA), nucleus accumbens (NAc) and central amygdala (CeA). Genetic NOP receptor deletion resulted in decreased nicotine intake, decreased motivation to self-administer and attenuation of cue-induced nicotine reinstatement. LY2817412 reduced nicotine intake in NOP+/+ but not in NOP-/- rats, confirming that its effect is mediated by inhibition of NOP transmission. Finally, injection of LY2817412 into the VTA but not into the NAc or CeA decreased nicotine self-administration. These findings indicate that inhibition of NOP transmission attenuates the motivation for nicotine through mechanisms involving the VTA and suggest that NOP receptor antagonism may represent a potential treatment for smoking cessation. © 2021 The British Pharmacological Society.


Ana Domi, Veronica Lunerti, Michele Petrella, Esi Domi, Anna Maria Borruto, Massimo Ubaldi, Friedbert Weiss, Roberto Ciccocioppo. Genetic deletion or pharmacological blockade of nociceptin/orphanin FQ receptors in the ventral tegmental area attenuates nicotine-motivated behaviour. British journal of pharmacology. 2022 Jun;179(11):2647-2658

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PMID: 34854073

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