Characterization of opioid receptors in rat nucleus accumbens following mesolimbic dopaminergic lesions

Ellen M. Unterwald, Ann Tempel, George F. Koob, R. Suzanne Zukin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Scopus citations


The present study investigated the cellular localization of μ, δ and κ opioid receptors in the rat nucleus accumbens in relation to dopaminergic neurons. Dopaminergic terminals were destroyed by intra-accumbens injections of the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA). Fourteen days after dopaminergic denervation, receptor binding assays and quantitative in vitro autoradiography with highly selective radioligands demonstrated that the density of μ opioid receptors in the nucleus accumbens was decreased by 30 ± 6%. There was no change in δ or κ receptors in the accumbens, a finding which indicates that the loss of μ opioid receptors was specific. A time course study demonstrated that the loss of μ receptors lagged behind the depletion of dopamine by about 5 days. Destruction of intrinsic neuronal cell bodies and dendrites by injection of ibotenic acid into the accumbens resulted in a loss of 36 ± 3% of μ opioid receptors. Co-injection of 6-OHDA and ibotenic acid decreased μ receptors by 41 ± 4%, only slightly more than the loss caused by ibotenic acid alone. These results suggest that only a small number of μ opioid receptors in the nucleus accumbens are located on dopaminergic terminals and are consistent with the possibility that the loss of opioid receptors following denervation of dopaminergic fibers in the accumbens is the result of transsynaptic degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-118
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 25 1989


  • Cellular localization
  • Lesion
  • Mesolimbic dopamine
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Opioid receptor
  • Receptor autoradiography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Characterization of opioid receptors in rat nucleus accumbens following mesolimbic dopaminergic lesions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this