The influences of reproductive status and acute stress on the levels of phosphorylated mu opioid receptor immunoreactivity in rat hippocampus

Keith L. Gonzales, Jeanette D. Chapleau, Joseph P. Pierce, David T. Kelter, Tanya J. Williams, Annelyn Torres-Reveron, Bruce S. McEwen, Elizabeth M. Waters, Teresa A. Milner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Opioids play a critical role in hippocampally dependent behavior and plasticity. In the hippocampal formation, mu opioid receptors (MOR) are prominent in parvalbumin (PARV) containing interneurons. Previously we found that gonadal hormones modulate the trafficking of MORs in PARV interneurons. Although sex differences in response to stress are well documented, the point at which opioids, sex, and stress interact to influence hippocampal function remains elusive. Thus, we used quantitative immunocytochemistry in combination with light and electron microscopy for the phosphorylated MOR (pMOR) at the SER375 carboxy-terminal residue in male and female rats to assess these interactions. In both sexes, pMOR-immunoreactivity (ir) was prominent in axons and terminals and in a few neuronal somata and dendrites, some of which contained PARV in the mossy fiber path- way region of the dentate gyrus (DG) hilus and CA3 stratum lucidum. In unstressed rats, the levels of pMOR-ir in the DG or CA3 were not affected by sex or estrous cycle stage. However, immediately following 30 min of acute immobilization stress (AIS), males had higher levels of pMOR-ir whereas females at proestrus and estrus (high estrogen stages) had lower levels of pMOR-ir within the DG. In contrast, the number and types of neu- ronal profiles with pMOR-ir were not altered by AIS in either males or proestrus females. These data demonstrate that although gonadal steroids do not affect pMOR levels at rest- ing conditions, they are differentially activated both pre and postsynaptic MORs following stress.These interactions may contribute to the reported sex differences in hippocampally dependent behaviors in stressed animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 18
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Estrogens
  • Mossy fiber pathway
  • Opioids
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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