Acute inhibition of kappa opioid receptors before stress blocks depression-like behaviors in California mice

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Kappa opioid receptors (KOR) are considered to be a promising therapeutic target for stress-induced psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression. Preclinical data show that KOR antagonists have greater efficacy if administered before stressful experiences as opposed to afterwards. However, almost all of these studies use long-acting antagonists, leaving it unclear whether inhibition of KOR after stress is required for efficacy. Here we show that administration of the short-acting KOR antagonist AZ-MTAB before episodes of social defeat stress block the induction of anhedonia (both males and females) and social avoidance responses (females) that persist two weeks after stress. In both males and females pre-stress AZ-MTAB treatment also blunted anticipatory autogrooming behavior immediately prior to the third episode of defeat. In contrast when AZ-MTAB was administered two weeks after defeat (immediately before behavior testing) in female California mice, it was ineffective at reversing anhedonia and social avoidance. These results suggest that short-acting KOR antagonists may have greater therapeutic potential if administered before exposure to psychosocial stressors.HighlightsShort-acting KOR antagonists given before stress block depression-like behaviors.Blocking KOR after stress does not affect stress phenotypes.Drugs targeting KOR may be more useful given in a prophylactic approach.

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