The mu opioid receptor and the orphan receptor GPR151 contribute to social reward in the habenula

Sci Rep. 2022 Nov 24;12(1):20234. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-24395-z.


The mu opioid receptor (MOR) and the orphan GPR151 receptor are inhibitory G protein coupled receptors that are enriched in the habenula, a small brain region involved in aversion processing, addiction and mood disorders. While MOR expression in the brain is widespread, GPR151 expression is restricted to the habenula. In a previous report, we created conditional ChrnB4-Cre × Oprm1fl/fl (so-called B4MOR) mice, where MORs are deleted specifically in Chrnb4-positive neurons restricted to the habenula, and shown a role for these receptors in naloxone aversion. Here we characterized the implication of habenular MORs in social behaviors. B4MOR-/- mice and B4MOR+/+ mice were compared in several social behavior measures, including the chronic social stress defeat (CSDS) paradigm, the social preference (SP) test and social conditioned place preference (sCPP). In the CSDS, B4MOR-/- mice showed lower preference for the social target (unfamiliar mouse of a different strain) at baseline, providing a first indication of deficient social interactions in mice lacking habenular MORs. In the SP test, B4MOR-/- mice further showed reduced sociability for an unfamiliar conspecific mouse. In the sCPP, B4MOR-/- mice also showed impaired place preference for their previous familiar littermates after social isolation. We next created and tested Gpr151-/- mice in the SP test, and also found reduced social preference compared to Gpr151+/+ mice. Altogether our results support the underexplored notion that the habenula regulates social behaviors. Also, our data suggest that the inhibitory habenular MOR and GPR151 receptors normally promote social reward, possibly by dampening the aversive habenula activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Habenula* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Naloxone / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled* / metabolism
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu* / metabolism
  • Reward


  • Naloxone
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • Gpr151 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled