Knockdown of prodynorphin gene prevents cognitive decline, reduces anxiety, and rescues loss of group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptor function in aging

J Neurosci. 2013 Jul 31;33(31):12792-804. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0290-13.2013.


Expression of dynorphin, an endogenous opioid peptide, increases with age and has been associated with memory impairments in rats. In human, prodynorphin (Pdyn) gene polymorphisms might be linked to cognitive function in the elderly. Moreover, elevated dynorphin levels have been reported in postmortem samples from Alzheimer's disease patients. However, the cellular and molecular processes affected by higher dynorphin levels during aging remain unknown. Using Pdyn(-/-) mice, we observed significant changes in the function and expression of Group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR). Compared with age-matched wild-type (WT) littermates, we found increased expression of mGluR1α and mGluR5 in the hippocampus and cortex of old, but not young, Pdyn(-/-) mice. Increased Group 1 mGluR expression in aged Pdyn(-/-) mice was associated with enhanced mGluR-mediated long-term depression, a form of synaptic plasticity. Notably, whereas aged WT mice developed spatial and recognition memory deficits, aged Pdyn(-/-) mice performed similarly as young mice. Pharmacological treatments with 3-cyano-N-(1,3-diphenyl-1H-pyrazol-5-yl)benzamide, a positive modulator of mGlu5 receptors, or norbinaltorphimine, an antagonist for dynorphin-targeted κ-opioid receptor, rescued memory in old WT mice. Conversely, mGlu5 receptor antagonist 2-methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)pyridine hydrochloride impaired spatial memory of old Pdyn(-/-) mice. Intact cognition in aged Pdyn(-/-) mice paralleled with increased expression of Group 1 mGluR-related genes Homer 1a and Arc. Finally, aged Pdyn(-/-) mice displayed less anxiety-related behaviors than age-matched WT mice. Together, our results suggest that elevated Pdyn expression during normal aging reduces mGluR expression and signaling, which in turn impairs cognitive functions and increases anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Anxiety / metabolism*
  • Benzamides / pharmacology
  • Benzamides / therapeutic use
  • Benzphetamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Benzphetamine / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enkephalins / deficiency*
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Exploratory Behavior / drug effects
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Long-Term Synaptic Depression / drug effects
  • Long-Term Synaptic Depression / genetics
  • Memory Disorders / drug therapy
  • Memory Disorders / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Protein Precursors / deficiency*
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • Pyridines / therapeutic use
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / metabolism*
  • Recognition, Psychology / drug effects
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology


  • 3-cyano-N-(1,3-diphenyl-1H-pyrazol-5-yl)benzamide
  • Benzamides
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Enkephalins
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Protein Precursors
  • Pyrazoles
  • Pyridines
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • metabotropic glutamate receptor type 1
  • Benzphetamine
  • norbenzphetamine
  • 6-methyl-2-(phenylethynyl)pyridine
  • preproenkephalin