Reduced sodium appetite and increased oxytocin gene expression in mutant mice lacking beta-endorphin
Franchini LF, Rubinstein M, Vivas L.
Instituto de Investigacion Medica Mercedes y Martin Ferreyra,
Casilla de Correo 389, 5000 Cordoba, Argentina.
Neuroscience. 2003;121(4):875-81


Central opioid and oxytocinergic systems have been involved in the regulatory control of sodium appetite. In addition, previous studies support the existence of a functional interaction between opioid peptides and oxytocinergic pathways, and suggest that beta-endorphin neurons would modulate the activity of central oxytocinergic pathways, its pituitary secretion and sodium appetite. To investigate the role of this opioid peptide in the control of oxytocin (OT) synthesis and sodium appetite regulation we used mice with gene dosage-dependent variations in brain beta-endorphin content, expressing either 100%, 50%, or 0% of normal beta-endorphin content. Our results show that beta-endorphin knockout (KO) and heterozygous (HT) mutant mice consume approximately a 50% less 2% NaCl solution compared with wild type mice (WT), after furosemide and low sodium diet treatment. These data suggest that beta-endorphin may facilitate induced sodium appetite, giving new evidence about the role of beta-endorphin on sodium appetite behavior. Our data also indicate that OT mRNA levels evaluated by in situ hybridization significantly increased within the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus of WT animals after induced sodium ingestion, giving support to former evidence indicating an inhibitory role for central OT in the control of sodium appetite. Moreover, beta-endorphin mutated mice have similar higher levels of OT mRNA expression after the different conditions analyzed: basal, control or experimental, compared with WT mice. Both control HT and KO mice showed higher OT mRNA expression levels than control WT group and these levels did not change after induced sodium intake. Taken together, our data suggest that the reduced sodium ingestion observed in beta-endorphin deficient mice could be due to a higher expression of the OT gene. This conclusion would support the hypothesis that OT inhibits sodium intake and provides new evidence about beta-endorphin modulation of OT synthesis and sodium appetite.
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