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The kappa-opioid receptor (KOR) has been implicated in mediating the behavioral and biochemical effects associated with nicotine reward and withdrawal; however, its underlying mechanisms remain to be further explored. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were used to establish a nicotine dependence and withdrawal model by injecting nicotine (3 mg/kg/day, s.c.) or vehicle for 14 days, followed by the termination of nicotine for 7 days. Body weight gain, pain behaviors, and withdrawal scores were assessed in succession. MicroRNA (miRNA) sequencing was performed, and quantitative real-time PCR was used to detect the expression of candidate miRNAs and Oprk1. Western blotting was performed to examine KOR protein expression of KOR. Luciferase assay was conducted to validate the relationship of certain miRNAs/Oprk1. The behavioral results showed that nicotine dependence and withdrawal induced behavioral changes. Biochemical analyses demonstrated that miR-144-3p expression decreased and Oprk1/KOR expression increased in the prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumben, and hippocampus. Further investigation suggested that miR-144-3p exerted an inhibitory effect on Oprk1 expression in PC12 cells. This study revealed that miR-144-3p/Oprk1/KOR might be a potential pathway underlying the adverse effects induced by nicotine dependence and withdrawal, and might provide a novel therapeutic target for smoking cessation. This study demonstrates an impact of nicotine dependence and nicotine withdrawal on behavioral outcomes and the expressions of miR-144-3p/Oprk1/KOR in male rats. These findings have important translational implications given the continued use of nicotine and the difficulty in smoking cessation worldwide, which can be applied to alleviated the adverse effects induced by nicotine dependence and withdrawal, thus assist smokers to quit smoking. © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.


Jiali Shao, Yanxia Fei, Ji Xiao, Lijuan Wang, Shuangfa Zou, Jinfeng Yang. The role of miRNA-144-3p/Oprk1/KOR in nicotine dependence and nicotine withdrawal in male rats. Nicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. 2023 Nov 22;25(12):1856-1864

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PMID: 37455648

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