Anti-opioid Effects of RFRP-3 on Magnocellular Neuron Activity in Morphine-naïve and Morphine-treated Female Rats

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Neuropeptide FF receptors (NPFFR1 and NPFFR2) have been proposed to possess anti-opioid properties, and be involved in the development of opiate tolerance and dependence. However, there is no evidence to date supporting such opioid effects at the cellular level in vivo. Using in vivo electrophysiological recordings from vasopressin and oxytocin neurons in the supraoptic nucleus, we aimed to determine the effects of NPFFRs on opiate inhibition, tolerance, and dependence at a cellular level. Both vasopressin and oxytocin neurons are acutely inhibited by opioids and develop opiate tolerance. Oxytocin neurons also develop cellular opiate dependence and undergo withdrawal hyperexcitation upon cessation of opiate administration. Here, the classical μ-opioid receptor agonist, morphine robustly inhibited the spontaneous firing rate of vasopressin and oxytocin neurons, and this inhibition was attenuated by pretreatment with the NPFFR1 agonist, RFamide-related peptide-3. In rats infused with morphine for 6 d, vasopressin neurons were unresponsive to morphine, indicating the development of cellular tolerance, but pretreatment with the NPFFR antagonist, GJ14, restored acute morphine inhibition. In morphine-infused rats, RFamide related peptide-3 did not induce withdrawal excitation in oxytocin neurons and GJ14 did not reverse naloxone-precipitated withdrawal excitation. This is the first evidence of anti-opioid effects of the NPFFR system at a cellular level in vivo. Our results suggest that the anti-opioid properties of the NPFFR system reduce morphine sensitivity during tolerance but that it is not involved in dependence.

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