Low dose naltrexone administration in morphine dependent
rats attenuates withdrawal-induced norepinephrine efflux in forebrain

Van Bockstaele EJ, Qian Y, Sterling RC, Page ME.
Thomas Jefferson University, Department of Neurosurgery,
Farber Institute for Neurosciences,
Philadelphia, PA 19107, United States.
Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Mar 24


T The administration of low dose opioid antagonists has been explored as a potential means of detoxification in opiate dependence. Previous results from our laboratory have shown that concurrent administration of low dose naltrexone in the drinking water of rats implanted with subcutaneous morphine pellets attenuates behavioral and biochemical signs of withdrawal in brainstem noradrenergic nuclei. Noradrenergic projections originating from the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) and the locus coeruleus (LC) have previously been shown to be important neural substrates involved in the somatic expression of opiate withdrawal. The hypothesis that low dose naltrexone treatment attenuates noradrenergic hyperactivity typically associated with opiate withdrawal was examined in the present study by assessing norepinephrine tissue content and norepinephrine efflux using in vivo microdialysis coupled to high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with electrochemical detection (ED). The frontal cortex (FC), amygdala, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and cerebellum were analyzed for tissue content of norepinephrine following withdrawal in morphine dependent rats. Naltrexone-precipitated withdrawal elicited a significant decrease in tissue content of norepinephrine in the BNST and amygdala. This decrease was significantly attenuated in the BNST of rats that received low dose naltrexone pre-treatment compared to controls. No significant difference was observed in the other brain regions examined. In a separate group of rats, norepinephrine efflux was assessed with in vivo microdialysis in the BNST or the FC of morphine dependent rats or placebo treated rats subjected to naltrexone-precipitated withdrawal that received either naltrexone in their drinking water (5 mg/L) or unadulterated water. Following baseline dialysate collection, withdrawal was precipitated by injection of naltrexone and sample collection continued for an additional 4 h. At the end of the experiment, animals were transcardially perfused and the brains were removed for verification of probe placement. Low dose naltrexone pre-treatment significantly attenuated withdrawal-induced increases of extracellular norepinephrine in the BNST, with a smaller effect in the FC. These findings suggest that alterations in norepinephrine release associated with withdrawal may be attenuated in forebrain targets of noradrenergic brainstem neurons that may underlie reduced behavioral signs of withdrawal following low dose naltrexone administration.
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