The concentration of brain catecholamines was measured in the hypothalamus, preoptic area (POA), frontal cortex, cerebellum, and striatum of rats exposed in utero to morphine (5-10 mg/kg/twice daily) during gestation days 11-18. Prenatal morphine induced regionally specific, sexually dimorphic alterations in male and female norepinephrine (NE), and dopamine (DA) content at different postnatal ages. Prenatal morphine significantly increased NE content in the hypothalamus of both sexes at postnatal day (PND) 23. In the POA, on the other hand, morphine increased NE content in exposed males at PND 23 and in females at PND 33. In the cerebellum, the NE content of both sexes was significantly elevated at PND 45. In the striatum, NE content was increased by the prenatal morphine only in females at PND 16. The concentration of DA was also affected in a sexually dimorphic manner. At PND 16, prenatal morphine increased the levels of hypothalamic DA only in males, and it reduced the content of DA in female but not male PDA. At PND 45, prenatal morphine increased DA in the hypothalamus of females and decreased it in males. In the cerebellum of 16-day-old morphine-exposed animals, DA levels were increased only in males; at PND 45, the levels of DA were still increased in males but had not changed in females. In the striatum, the DA content was reduced only in males at PND 16. Thus, prenatal morphine alters the development of both NE and DA neurotransmitter systems in the hypothalamus, POA, striatum, and cerebellum in a sexually dimorphic manner.
- Preoptic area
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