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Papers of the Week

Papers: 30 Sep 2023 - 6 Oct 2023

2023 Sep 27



Decreased myelin-related gene expression in the nucleus accumbens during spontaneous neonatal opioid withdrawal in the absence of long-term behavioral effects in adult outbred CFW mice.


Borrelli KN, Wingfield KK, Yao EJ, Zamorano CA, Sena KD, Beierle JA, Roos MA, Zhang H, Wachman EM, Bryant CD


Prenatal opioid exposure is a major health concern in the United States, with the incidence of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) escalating in recent years. NOWS occurs upon cessation of in utero opioid exposure and is characterized by increased irritability, disrupted sleep patterns, high-pitched crying, and dysregulated feeding. The main pharmacological strategy for alleviating symptoms is treatment with replacement opioids. The neural mechanisms mediating NOWS and the long-term neurobehavioral effects are poorly understood. We used a third trimester-approximate model in which neonatal outbred pups (Carworth Farms White; CFW) were administered once-daily morphine (15 mg/kg, s.c.) from postnatal day (P) day 1 through P14 and were then assessed for behavioral and transcriptomic adaptations within the nucleus accumbens (NAc) on P15. We also investigated the long-term effects of perinatal morphine exposure on adult learning and reward sensitivity. We observed significant weight deficits, spontaneous thermal hyperalgesia, and altered ultrasonic vocalization (USV) profiles following repeated morphine and during spontaneous withdrawal. Transcriptome analysis of NAc from opioid-withdrawn P15 neonates via bulk mRNA sequencing identified an enrichment profile consistent with downregulation of myelin-associated transcripts. Despite the neonatal behavioral and molecular effects, there were no significant long-term effects of perinatal morphine exposure on adult spatial memory function in the Barnes Maze, emotional learning in fear conditioning, or in baseline or methamphetamine-potentiated reward sensitivity as measured via intracranial self-stimulation. Thus, the once daily third trimester-approximate exposure regimen, while inducing NOWS model traits and significant transcriptomic effects in neonates, had no significant long-term effects on adult behaviors.