Nociceptin/orphanin FQ receptor agonists increase aggressiveness in the mouse resident-intruder test

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Abstract

Aggressive behaviors can be considered symptoms of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress, intermittent explosive, and personality disorders. Nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) is a peptide acting as endogenous ligand of the NOP receptor. Preclinical and clinical findings suggest the NOP receptor as an innovative target for the treatment of psychopathologies, such as anxiety, depression, and drug abuse. This study investigated the effects of NOP ligands and the behavioral phenotype of mice lacking the NOP receptor in an animal model of aggressiveness, the resident-intruder test. Mood stabilizers, such as valproate, lithium, and carbamazepine reduced aggressive behaviors of resident mice, while diazepam was inactive. In contrast, para-chlorophenylalanine (PCPA), an inhibitor of 5-HT synthesis, increased aggressiveness in mice. Similar to PCPA, the treatment with the NOP agonists Ro 65-6570 and AT-090 also increased aggressive behaviors. The systemic administration of the NOP antagonist SB-612111 did not modify the behavior of resident mice, but it prevented the aggressive behavior of Ro 65-6570. NOP receptor knockout mice did not display any behavioral difference compared to wild-type animals in the resident-intruder test. None of the treatments affected non-agonistic behaviors and spontaneous locomotion. In conclusion, NOP receptor agonists increased aggressiveness, while the pharmacological and genetic blockade of NOP receptor signaling did not modify agonistic behaviors. Ultimately, the aggressive profile of action of NOP agonists should be taken into account in the development of innovative psychiatric drugs targeting the NOP receptor.

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