Dynorphin is the presumed endogenous ligand for the kappa-opioid receptor. The dynorphin gene may play a role in psychotropic agent-mediated behavioral changes via dopaminergic modulation. Therefore, in this study, possible involvement of the dynorphin gene in nalbuphine-mediated behavioral responses was examined using prodynorphin (Pdyn) gene knock-out (-/-) mice. Pdyn gene deficiency potentiates nalbuphine-induced behavioral sensitization of locomotor activity and accumbal c-Fos expression. Administration of nalbuphine induced a significant increase in the dialysate dopamine level in the nucleus accumbens. This increase was more pronounced in the Pdyn (-/-) mice than in the wild-type (WT) mice. In addition, Pdyn (-/-) mice were more vulnerable to the naloxone-precipitated withdrawal syndrome (i.e., teeth chattering, wet dog shakes, forepaw tremors, jumping, weight loss, and global withdrawal score) after repeated treatment with nalbuphine than the WT mice. Consistently, nor-binaltorphimine, a kappa-opioid receptor antagonist, significantly potentiated nalbuphine-induced behavioral effects in WT mice, whereas U-50488H, a kappa-opioid receptor agonist, significantly attenuated these changes in Pdyn (-/-) mice in a dose-dependent manner. Our data suggest that the kappa-opioid receptor/dynorphin system is specifically modulated in response to behavioral sensitization and withdrawal signs induced by nalbuphine.
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