Role of agonist efficacy in exposure-induced enhancement of mu opioid reward in rats.


Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Virginia Commonwealth University, 410 N 12th Street, Richmond, VA, 23298, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


The abuse potential of opioid analgesics in humans appears to increase rapidly during initial regimens of opioid exposure. Previous work using intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS), a preclinical procedure useful for studying rewarding drug effects in drug-naïve animals, has similarly shown that rewarding effects of mu opioid receptor (MOR) agonists increase rapidly in rats during initial regimens of opioid administration. The goal of the present study was to evaluate the role of MOR agonist efficacy as a determinant in eliciting this trajectory of increased rewarding effects during initial opioid exposure in opioid-naïve rats. Separate groups of adult, male Sprague-Dawley rats responded for electrical brain stimulation using a frequency-rate ICSS procedure and received repeated daily treatment with vehicle or one of five MOR agonists that ranged from low to high efficacy (NAQ, nalbuphine, buprenorphine, fentanyl, methadone). Two additional groups were used to evaluate effects of repeated treatment with non-opioids (the cannabinoid CP55940 or the monoamine releaser amphetamine). Morphine was tested after each repeated treatment. In opioid-naïve rats tested before repeated dosing, MOR agonists produced primarily dose- and efficacy-dependent decreases in ICSS. Following repeated treatment, all MOR agonists except NAQ produced tolerance to opioid-induced rate-decreasing effects and enhanced expression of ICSS facilitation (indicative of opioid reward) by both the repeatedly administered drug and morphine. Repeated treatment with CP55940 and amphetamine produced different effects. Collectively, these results provide evidence to suggest that enhanced expression of opioid reward after initial regimens of opioid exposure has a low requirement for MOR agonist efficacy and is pharmacologically selective.


Efficacy,Intracranial self-stimulation,Morphine,Mu opioid receptor,Repeated dosing,

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