TRPV1 modulates morphine-induced conditioned place preference via p38 MAPK in the nucleus accumbens

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Emerging evidence suggests that the transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 channel (TRPV1) is a novel target for the treatment of drug addiction, such as cocaine and morphine. Previously we reported that TRPV1 inhibition reduced morphine reward in the dorsal striatum (DSt) of mice and morphine self-administration through a decrease in accumbal activity in rats. However, the role of TRPV1 on morphine-conditioned reward in addiction-related brain regions, such as the nucleus accumbens (NAc), has not been previously established. Here, we investigated the effects of TRPV1 on morphine conditioned place preference (CPP) and intracellular mechanisms of TRPV1 using Western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry (IHC) in morphine-administered mice. TRPV1 knockout mice did not exhibit morphine reward responses, and both i.p. and intra-NAc injections of SB366791, a selective TRPV1 antagonist, reduced morphine-induced CPP in wild-type mice. Furthermore, i.p. injection of SB203580, a selective p38 MAPK inhibitor, also dampened morphine-induced CPP. To determine the molecular mechanisms of the TRPV1/p38 MAPK pathway in morphine CPP, we investigated the expression of adenylyl cyclase type 1 (AC1) and phospho-p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) in the NAc. Either SB366791 or SB203580 decreased the protein expression levels of phospho-p38 MAPK, phosphor-NF-κB, and AC1 in the NAc of morphine CPP mice. Taken together, our findings suggest that TRPV1 may modulate morphine-induced conditioned reward effects via the p38 MAPK signaling pathway in the NAc. Therefore, blockade of TRPV1 may provide a novel therapeutic approach for the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction.

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