Mice Lacking GPR88 Show Motor Deficit, Improved Spatial Learning, and Low Anxiety Reversed by Delta Opioid Antagonist

Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Jun 1;79(11):917-27. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.05.020. Epub 2015 Jun 6.


Background: GPR88 is an orphan G protein coupled receptor highly enriched in the striatum, and previous studies have focused on GPR88 function in striatal physiology. The receptor is also expressed in other brain areas, and here we examined whether GPR88 function extends beyond striatal-mediated responses.

Methods: We created Gpr88 knockout mice and examined both striatal and extrastriatal regions at molecular and cellular levels. We also tested striatum-, hippocampus-, and amygdala-dependent behaviors in Gpr88(-/-) mice using extensive behavioral testing.

Results: We found increased G protein coupling for delta opioid receptor (DOR) and mu opioid, but not other Gi/o coupled receptors, in the striatum of Gpr88 knockout mice. We also found modifications in gene transcription, dopamine and serotonin contents, and dendritic morphology inside and outside the striatum. Behavioral testing confirmed striatal deficits (hyperactivity, stereotypies, motor impairment in rotarod). In addition, mutant mice performed better in spatial tasks dependent on hippocampus (Y-maze, novel object recognition, dual solution cross-maze) and also showed markedly reduced levels of anxiety (elevated plus maze, marble burying, novelty suppressed feeding). Strikingly, chronic blockade of DOR using naltrindole partially improved motor coordination and normalized spatial navigation and anxiety of Gpr88(-/-) mice.

Conclusions: We demonstrate that GPR88 is implicated in a large repertoire of behavioral responses that engage motor activity, spatial learning, and emotional processing. Our data also reveal functional antagonism between GPR88 and DOR activities in vivo. The therapeutic potential of GPR88 therefore extends to cognitive and anxiety disorders, possibly in interaction with other receptor systems.

Keywords: Ethological scoring of anxiety; GPR88 agonist-induced GTPγS binding; Gene clustering; Medium spiny neurons; Psychiatric disorders; Spatial learning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Amygdala / pathology
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Anxiety / metabolism*
  • Anxiety / pathology
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Corpus Striatum / pathology
  • Dendrites / drug effects
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Movement Disorders / drug therapy
  • Movement Disorders / metabolism*
  • Movement Disorders / pathology
  • Naltrexone / analogs & derivatives
  • Naltrexone / pharmacology
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / deficiency*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / metabolism
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / metabolism
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Spatial Learning / drug effects
  • Spatial Learning / physiology*


  • Gpr88 protein, mouse
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • Serotonin
  • Naltrexone
  • naltrindole
  • Dopamine