Behavioral and neuroendocrine actions of the Met-enkephalin-related peptide MERF

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The effects and the mediation of the action of the proenkephalin derivative Met5-enkephalin-Arg6-Phe7 (MERF) on the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system and open-field behavior were investigated in mice. Intracerebroventricular injection of the heptapeptide increased square crossing, rearing, and plasma corticosterone level. To characterize the receptors involved in these neuroendocrine processes, animals were pretreated either with the nonselective opioid antagonist naloxone or the κ-antagonist nor-binaltorphimine (nor-BNI). Both antagonists dose-dependently attenuated the HPA activation elicited by MERF. Naloxone also blocked the behavioral responses, but nor-binaltorphimine did not elicit a significant inhibition. The dopamine antagonist haloperidol and a corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) antagonist were also preadministered to shed light on the transmission of the actions of MERF. Both the motor responses and the HPA activation were diminished by the preadministration of the CRH antagonist, while haloperidol attenuated only square crossing and rearing. To investigate the direct effect of MERF on the dopaminergic system, dopamine release of striatal slices was measured in a superfusion system. Neither the basal nor the electric impulse-evoked dopamine release was modified by MERF. The results suggest that opioid-mediation predominate in the neuroendocrine actions of MERF, and the effect of the heptapeptide on the HPA system seems to be mediated by κ-receptors. In the behavioral responses evoked by MERF, both CRH release and the action of the dopaminergic neurons of the subcortical motor system might be involved. MERF also appears to activate the paraventricular CRH neurons, but dopaminergic transmission does not seem to play a significant role in its hypothalamic action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-311
Number of pages10
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2003



  • HPA axis
  • MERF
  • Open-field behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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