Pain-related depression of the mesolimbic dopamine system in rats: expression, blockade by analgesics, and role of endogenous κ-opioids

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014 Feb;39(3):614-24. doi: 10.1038/npp.2013.236. Epub 2013 Sep 6.


Pain is often associated with depression of behavior and mood, and relief of pain-related depression is a common goal of treatment. This study tested the hypothesis that pain-related behavioral depression is mediated by activation of endogenous κ-opioid systems and subsequent depression of mesolimbic dopamine release. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were implanted with electrodes targeting the medial forebrain bundle (for behavior studies of intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS)) or with cannulae for microdialysis measures of nucleus accumbens dopamine (NAc DA). Changes in ICSS and NAc DA were examined after treatment with a visceral noxious stimulus (intraperitoneal injection of dilute lactic acid) or an exogenous κ-agonist (U69593). Additional studies examined the sensitivity of acid and U69593 effects to blockade by two analgesics (the nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug ketoprofen and the μ-opioid agonist morphine) or by the κ-antagonist norbinaltorphimine (norBNI). The effects of acid were also examined on mRNA expression for prodynorphin (PDYN) and κ-opioid receptors (KORs) in mesocorticolimbic brain regions. Both acid and U69593 depressed ICSS and extracellular levels of NAc DA. Pain-related acid effects were blocked by ketoprofen and morphine but not by norBNI. The U69593 effects were blocked by norBNI but not by ketoprofen, and were only attenuated by morphine. Acid did not significantly alter PDYN or KOR in NAc, but it produced a delayed increase in PDYN in prefrontal cortex. These results support a key role for the mesolimbic DA system, but a more nuanced role for endogenous κ-opioid systems, in mediating acute pain-related behavioral depression in rats.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Benzeneacetamides / pharmacology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Depression / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • Ketoprofen / pharmacology
  • Lactic Acid / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Medial Forebrain Bundle / drug effects
  • Medial Forebrain Bundle / physiology
  • Morphine / pharmacology
  • Naltrexone / analogs & derivatives
  • Naltrexone / pharmacology
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*
  • Pain / complications*
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pyrrolidines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / genetics
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / metabolism*
  • Self Stimulation
  • Time Factors


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Benzeneacetamides
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Pyrrolidines
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa
  • Lactic Acid
  • norbinaltorphimine
  • Naltrexone
  • Morphine
  • Ketoprofen
  • U 69593
  • Dopamine