Repeated swim stress induces kappa opioid-mediated activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2

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Earlier studies identified the dynorphin-κ opioid receptor (KOR) system as a critical mediator of dysphoria-induced aversion after repeated stress exposure, but the molecular signaling mechanisms were not fully characterized. In this study we report that repeated forced swim stress caused a significant phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)1/2 a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) in both the caudate and nucleus accumbens regions of the mouse striatum. Activation was blocked by the KOR antagonist, norbinaltorphimine, and absent in KOR knockout mice. In contrast to p38-MAPK activation by stress-induced dynorphin release, KOR-mediated ERK1/2 phosphorylation was not dependent on G-protein coupled receptor kinase 3 expression. These results indicate stress-induced activation of the dynorphin-KOR systems activates ERK1/2 MAPK signaling, and this may contribute to the behavioral responses to repeated stress exposure.

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