Recent findings implicating neurokinins in the expression of anxiety-like behaviors have stimulated interest in the participation of these neuropeptides in the dorsal periaqueductal gray matter (dPAG), one of the main output regions of the brainstem for the expression of defense reaction. Studies on the behavior of rats submitted to the elevated plus-maze test in this laboratory have shown that microinjections of substance P into the dorsal periaqueductal gray produce anxiogenic-like effects. Now, we analyze what portion of the molecule of substance P is responsible for these effects through the examination of the action of its C- and N-terminus fragments (6–11 and 1–7) in the elevated plus-maze. We also investigated whether these effects are influenced by prior treatment with the tachykinin NK 1 receptor antagonist 17-β-hydroxy-17-α-ethynyl-5α-androstanol(3,2- b )pyrimido(1,2- a )benzimidazole (WIN51,708). To this end, rats were implanted with a cannula in the dorsal periaqueductal gray and injected 1 week later with equimolar doses (17.5 and 35 pmol) of either C- or N-fragments of substance P and tested in the elevated plus-maze. The results show that the C-terminal fragment has an anxiogenic profile of effects, including reduction in the number of entries and time spent in the open arms of the maze, plus increases in scanning, stretched-attend posture, head dipping and flat-back approach. On the other hand, the N-terminal fragment produced opposite effects, namely, an increase in the number of entries and time spent in the open arms of the maze accompanied by an increase in end-arm activity, rearing and head dipping. The tachykinin NK 1 receptor antagonist WIN51,708 (20 mg/kg, i.p.) inhibited the effects of the carboxy-terminal of substance P while it did not change the effects of the N-terminal fragment. Microinjection of WIN51,708 (20 mg/kg, i.p.), by its own, did not produce any significant effects. Therefore, the results indicate that the anxiogenic effects of substance P injected into the dorsal periaqueductal gray are encoded by its carboxy-terminal sequence and due to its action on tachykinin NK 1 receptors.
European Journal of Pharmacology – Elsevier
Published: Nov 30, 2001
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