Adaptations in neurons of the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG) induced by chronic morphine treatment mediate expression of many signs of opioid withdrawal. The abnormally elevated action potential rate of opioid-sensitive PAG neurons is a likely cellular mechanism for withdrawal expression. We report here that opioid withdrawal in vitro induced an opioid-sensitive cation current that was mediated by the GABA transporter-1 (GAT-1) and required activation of protein kinase A (PKA) for its expression. Inhibition of GAT-1 or PKA also prevented withdrawal-induced hyperexcitation of PAG neurons. Our findings indicate that GAT-1 currents can directly increase the action potential rates of neurons and that GAT-1 may be a target for therapy to alleviate opioid-withdrawal symptoms.
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