Endomorphin-1 modulates intrinsic inhibition in the dorsal vagal complex

J Neurophysiol. 2007 Sep;98(3):1591-9. doi: 10.1152/jn.00336.2007. Epub 2007 Jul 5.


Mu-opioid receptor (MOR) agonists profoundly influence digestive and other autonomic functions by modulating neurons in nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) and dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (DMV). Whole cell recordings were made from NTS and DMV neurons in brain stem slices from rats and transgenic mice that expressed enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) under the control of a GAD67 promoter (EGFP-GABA neurons) to identify opioid-mediated effects on GABAergic circuitry. Synaptic and membrane properties of EGFP-GABA neurons were assessed. The endogenous selective MOR agonist endomorphin-1 (EM-1) reduced spontaneous and evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) and inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in both rat and mouse DMV neurons. Electrical stimulation of the solitary tract evoked constant-latency EPSCs in approximately 50% of EGFP-GABA neurons, and the responses were reduced by EM-1 application. EM-1 reduced action potential firing, the frequency and amplitude of synaptic inputs in EGFP-GABA neurons and responses to direct glutamate stimulation. A subset of EGFP-GABA neurons colocalized mRFP1 after retrograde, transneuronal infection after gastric inoculation with PRV-614, indicating that they synapsed with gastric-projecting DMV neurons. Glutamate photolysis stimulation of intact NTS projections evoked IPSCs in DMV neurons, and EM-1 reduced the evoked response, most likely by activation of MOR on the soma of premotor GABA neurons in NTS. Naltrexone or H-d-Phe-Cys-Tyr-d-Trp-Arg-Thr-Pen-Thr-NH2 (CTAP), MOR antagonists, blocked the effects of EM-1. Our results show that GABA neurons in the NTS receive direct vagal afferent input and project to gastric-related DMV neurons. Furthermore, modulation by EM-1 of specific components of the vagal complex differentially suppresses excitatory and inhibitory synaptic input to the DMV by acting at different receptor locations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 6-Cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Endorphins / pharmacology*
  • Evoked Potentials / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / drug effects
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Vagus Nerve / drug effects
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Endorphins
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • 6-Cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione