The CRF1 and the CRF2 receptor mediate recognition memory deficits and vulnerability induced by opiate withdrawal

Neuropharmacology. 2016 Jun:105:500-507. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2016.02.021. Epub 2016 Feb 18.


Opiate use disorders are associated with impaired cognitive function and altered stress-responsive systems. The corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) system mediates stress responses via CRF1 and CRF2 receptors and may be implicated in substance use disorders. However, the specific role for each of the two known CRF receptor subtypes in cognitive impairment induced by opiate administration and withdrawal remains to be elucidated. In the present study, CRF1-/-, CRF2-/- and their respective wild-type mice are injected with escalating doses of morphine and cognitive function assessed by the novel object recognition (NOR) memory task throughout relatively long periods of opiate withdrawal. Early (2 days) phases of opiate withdrawal impair NOR memory in wild-type, CRF1-/- and CRF2-/- mice. However, the duration of opiate withdrawal-induced NOR memory deficits is prolonged in CRF1-/- but shortened in CRF2-/- mice, as compared to their respective wild-type mice, indicating opposite roles for the two CRF receptor subtypes. Nevertheless, following apparent recovery, exposure to an environmental stressor induces the reemergence of NOR memory deficits in long-term opiate-withdrawn wild-type but not CRF1-/- or CRF2-/- mice, indicating an essential role for both CRF receptor subtypes in stress vulnerability. These findings bring initial evidence of a complex physiopathological role for the CRF system in cognitive deficits and the long-lasting vulnerability induced by opiate drugs.

Keywords: CRF(1) receptor-deficiency; CRF(2) receptor-deficiency; Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) system; Opiate withdrawal; Recognition memory; Stress vulnerability.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Memory Disorders / chemically induced
  • Memory Disorders / metabolism
  • Mice, 129 Strain
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Morphine / pharmacology*
  • Opiate Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / genetics
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Recognition, Psychology / drug effects*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Time Factors


  • CRF receptor type 2
  • Opiate Alkaloids
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • CRF receptor type 1
  • Morphine