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Next generation effects of female adolescent morphine exposure: sex-specific alterations in response to acute morphine emerge before puberty

Vassoler, Fair M.; Johnson-Collins, Nicole L.; Carini, Lindsay M.; Byrnes, Elizabeth M.

doi: 10.1097/FBP.0000000000000032

Prescription opiate use by adolescent girls has increased significantly in the past decade. Preclinical studies using rats report alterations in morphine sensitivity in the adult offspring of adolescent morphine-exposed females (MOR-F1) when compared with the offspring of adolescent saline-exposed females (SAL-F1). To begin to elucidate the development of these next generation modifications, the present study examined the effects of acute morphine administration on sedation and corticosterone secretion in prepubescent SAL-F1 and MOR-F1 male and female rats. In addition, alterations in proopiomelanocortin (POMC) gene expression in the arcuate nucleus, as well as in tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and μ-opioid receptor (OPRM1) gene expressions in the ventral tegmental area, were analyzed using quantitative PCR, to determine whether differential regulation of these genes was correlated with the observed behavioral and/or endocrine effects. Increased morphine-induced sedation, coupled with an attenuation of morphine-induced corticosterone secretion, was observed in MOR-F1 males. Significant alterations in both POMC and OPRM1 gene expressions were also observed in MOR-F1 males, with no change in TH mRNA expression. Overall, these data suggest that the transgenerational effects of adolescent morphine exposure can be discerned before pubertal development and are more pronounced in males, and suggest dysregulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis in the offspring of adolescent morphine-exposed females.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Elizabeth M. Byrnes, PhD, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, MA 01536, USA E-mail:

Received June 5, 2013

Accepted January 21, 2014

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins