Stimulation and Antagonism of Opioid δ-Receptors Produce Opposite Effects on Active Avoidance Conditioning in Mice

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The effects of opioid δ-receptor activation on conditioning in a one-way active avoidance paradigm were investigated in mice. Peripheral administration of 30 and 100 μg/kg of [Leu5]enkephalin (LE) and 11.6 μg/kg of [D-Pen2, D-Pen5]enkephalin (DPDPE), a synthetic enkephalin analog with high δ-selectivity, impaired acquisition of avoidance responding. The dose response functions for both peptides were U-shaped. Deficits in responding were also present 24 hours after training, which suggests that the impaired performance observed during training was not an impairment in the ability of the mice to perform. Also, neither LE nor DPDPE decreased footshock sensitivity or open-field activity, which rules out analgesia and decreased activity levels as likely explanations for the deficits in conditioning. Finally, antagonizing endogenous ligands with the δ-selective antagonist ICI 154,129 enhanced acquisition, an effect opposite that produced by LE and DPDPE. The results suggest that activation of δ-receptors is normally involved in the modulation of active avoidance learning.

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