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Involvement of hippocampal phosphatidylethanolamine-binding protein in morphine dependence and withdrawal


Jin Li, Beijing Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Taiping Road 27th, Beijing 100850, China. E-mail:


Drug addiction is thought to result from an intractable and aberrant learning and memory in response to drug-related stimulation, and cholinergic neurotransmission plays an important role in this process. Phosphatidylethanolamine-binding protein (PEBP) is the precursor of the hippocampal cholinergic neurostimulating peptide (HCNP), an 11 amino acid peptide that enhances the production of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and assists in the development of cholinergic projections from the medial septal nuclei to the hippocampus. However, whether PEBP is involved in drug addiction remains unclear. In the present study, PEBP expression in the hippocampus, as detected by proteomics analysis, was found to be dramatically up-regulated after rats received chronic morphine treatment. Western blotting analysis revealed a specific up-regulation of PEBP expression in the hippocampus but not in any other brain regions assessed. A down-regulation of hippocampal PEBP levels induced by antisense oligodeoxynucleotides resulted in aggravated morphine dependence. Together, these findings indicate that PEBP is involved in morphine dependence. Moreover, the time course of PEBP expression changes and ChAT activity was investigated during chronic morphine treatment and withdrawal. The results showed that the hippocampal PEBP levels were up-regulated during chronic morphine treatment and returned to the baseline 3 days after withdrawal, after which PEBP levels were persistently up-regulated for 28 days after withdrawal. The changes in hippocampal ChAT activity followed a pattern that was similar to that of the PEBP levels. Taken together, these results suggest that hippocampal PEBP is involved in morphine dependence and withdrawal, perhaps through modulating cholinergic transmission in the hippocampus.