Opioidergic, GABAergic and serotonergic neurotransmission in the dorsal raphe nucleus modulates tonic immobility in guinea pigs

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Tonic immobility (TI) is an innate defensive behavior that can be elicited by physical restriction and postural inversion and is characterized by a profound and temporary state of akinesis. Our previous studies demonstrated that the stimulation of serotonin receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) appears to be biphasic during TI responses in guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus). Serotonin released by the DRN modulates behavioral responses and its release can occur through the action of different neurotransmitter systems, including the opioidergic and GABAergic systems. This study examines the role of opioidergic, GABAergic and serotonergic signaling in the DRN in TI defensive behavioral responses in guinea pigs. Microinjection of morphine (1.1nmol) or bicuculline (0.5nmol) into the DRN increased the duration of TI. The effect of morphine (1.1nmol) was antagonized by pretreatment with naloxone (0.7nmol), suggesting that the activation of μ opioid receptors in the DRN facilitates the TI response. By contrast, microinjection of muscimol (0.5nmol) into the DRN decreased the duration of TI. However, a dose of muscimol (0.26nmol) that alone did not affect TI, was sufficient to inhibit the effect of morphine (1.1nmol) on TI, indicating that GABAergic and enkephalinergic neurons interact in the DRN. Microinjection of alpha-methyl-5-HT (1.6nmol), a 5-HT 2 agonist, into the DRN also increased TI. This effect was inhibited by the prior administration of naloxone (0.7nmol). Microinjection of 8-OH-DPAT (1.3nmol) also blocked the increase of TI promoted by morphine (1.1nmol). Our results indicate that the opioidergic, GABAergic and serotonergic systems in the DRN are important for modulation of defensive behavioral responses of TI. Therefore, we suggest that opioid inhibition of GABAergic neurons results in disinhibition of serotonergic neurons and this is the mechanism by which opioids could enhance TI. Conversely, a decrease in TI could occur through the activation of GABAergic interneurons. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.




Ferreira, M. D., & Menescal-de-Oliveira, L. (2012). Opioidergic, GABAergic and serotonergic neurotransmission in the dorsal raphe nucleus modulates tonic immobility in guinea pigs. Physiology and Behavior, 106(2), 109–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.01.005

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