The oxytocin analogue carbetocin prevents priming-induced reinstatement of morphine-seeking: Involvement of dopaminergic, noradrenergic and MOPr systems (2015)

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015 Oct 9. pii: S0924-977X(15)00310-7. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2015.09.015.

Georgiou P1, Zanos P1, Garcia-Carmona JA2, Hourani S1, Kitchen I1, Kieffer BL3, Laorden ML2, Bailey A4.


Relapse to illicit drug-seeking following abstinence is a major challenge for the treatment of addiction as no effective pharmacotherapy is available. We have recently shown that activating the central oxytocinergic system prevents emotional impairment and stress-induced reinstatement associated with opioid withdrawal. Here, we investigated whether the oxytocin analogue carbetocin (CBT) is able to reverse morphine-primed reinstatement of conditioned-place preference (CPP) in mice.

The mechanism underlining the behavioural effect of CBT was investigated by assessing the involvement of the striatal noradrenergic and dopaminergic systems in CBT reversal of priming- and stress-induced reinstatement of opioid CPP. In addition, given recent evidence suggesting the presence of oxytocin receptor (OTR)-μ-opioid receptor (MOPr) interactions in the brain, we further explored these interactions by carrying out OTR autoradiographic binding in brain of mice lacking MOPr.

CBT administration prevented priming-induced reinstatement of morphine CPP. While an acute effect of CBT in enhancing dopamine turnover was observed following stress- and priming-induced reinstatement, CBT significantly decreased striatal noradrenaline turnover only following priming-induced reinstatement. Moreover, a significant brain region- specific increase in OTR binding was observed in MOPr knockout mice, indicating the presence of a possible OTR-MOPr interaction, which may be involved in the modulation of relapse.

These results support the oxytocinergic system as a promising target for the prevention of relapse to opioid use and highlight the differential involvement of monoaminergic systems on the effects of OTR stimulation in preventing stress- and priming-induced reinstatement of opioid CPP behaviour.