BACKGROUND: While there is a growing body of evidence that the delta opioid receptor (DOR) modulates ethanol (EtOH) consumption, development of DOR-based medications is limited in part because there are 2 pharmacologically distinct DOR subtypes (DOR-1 and DOR-2) that can have opposing actions on behavior.
METHODS: We studied the behavioral influence of the DOR-1-selective agonist [D-Pen(2) ,D-Pen(5) ]-Enkephalin (DPDPE) and the DOR-2-selective agonist deltorphin microinjected into the ventral tegmental area (VTA) on EtOH consumption and conditioned place preference (CPP) and the physiological effects of these 2 DOR agonists on GABAergic synaptic transmission in VTA-containing brain slices from Lewis rats.
RESULTS: Neither deltorphin nor DPDPE induced a significant place preference in EtOH-naïve Lewis rats. However, deltorphin (but not DPDPE) induced a significant CPP in EtOH-drinking rats. In contrast to the previous finding that intra-VTA DOR-1 activity inhibits EtOH consumption and that this inhibition correlates with a DPDPE-induced inhibition of GABA release, here we found no effect of DOR-2 activity on EtOH consumption nor was there a correlation between level of drinking and deltorphin-induced change in GABAergic synaptic transmission.
CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that the therapeutic potential of DOR agonists for alcohol abuse is through a selective action at the DOR-1 form of the receptor.
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