Robust age, but limited sex, differences in mu-opioid receptors in the rat brain: relevance for reward and drug-seeking behaviors in juveniles.
In the brain, the µ-opioid receptor (MOR) is involved in reward-seeking behaviors and plays a pivotal role in the mediation of opioid use disorders. Furthermore, reward-seeking behaviors and susceptibility to opioid addiction are particularly evident during the juvenile period, with a higher incidence of opioid use in males and higher sensitivity to opioids in females. Despite these age and sex differences in MOR-mediated behaviors, little is known regarding potential age and sex differences in the expression of MORs in the brain. Here, we used receptor autoradiography to compare MOR binding densities between juvenile and adult male and female rats. Age differences were found in MOR binding density in 12 out of 33 brain regions analyzed, with 11 regions showing higher MOR binding density in juveniles than in adults. These include the lateral septum, as well as sub-regions of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, hippocampus, and thalamus. Sex differences in MOR binding density were observed in only two brain regions, namely, the lateral septum (higher in males) and the posterior cortical nucleus of the amygdala (higher in females). Overall, these findings provide an important foundation for the generation of hypotheses regarding differential functional roles of MOR activation in juveniles versus adults. Specifically, we discuss the possibility that higher MOR binding densities in juveniles may allow for higher MOR activation, which could facilitate behaviors that are heightened during the juvenile period, such as reward and drug-seeking behaviors.
Smith, CJW; Ratnaseelan, AM; Veenema, AH
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
Pubmed Central ID
Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)