A Regional and Projection-Specific Role of RGSz1 in the Ventrolateral Periaqueductal Grey in the Modulation of Morphine Reward

Farhana Sakloth, Omar B. Sanchez-Reyes, Anne Ruiz, Andrew Nicolais, Randal A. Serafini, Kerri D. Pryce, Feodora Bertherat, Angélica Torres-Berrío, Ivone Gomes, Lakshmi A. Devi, Daniel Wacker, Venetia Zachariou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Opioid analgesics exert their therapeutic and adverse effects by activating l opioid receptors (MOPR); however, functional responses to MOPR activation are modulated by distinct signal transduction complexes within the brain. The ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) plays a critical role in modulation of nociception and analgesia, but the exact intracellular pathways associated with opioid responses in this region are not fully understood. We previously showed that knockout of the signal transduction modulator Regulator of G protein Signaling z1 (RGSz1) enhanced analgesic responses to opioids, whereas it decreased the rewarding efficacy of morphine. Here, we applied viral mediated gene transfer methodology and delivered adeno-associated virus (AAV) expressing Cre recombinase to the vlPAG of RGSz1fl\fl mice to demonstrate that downregulation of RGSz1 in this region decreases sensitivity to morphine in the place preference paradigm, under pain-free as well as neuropathic pain states. We also used retrograde viral vectors along with flippase-dependent Cre vectors to conditionally downregulate RGSz1 in vlPAG projections to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and show that downregulation of RGSz1 prevents the development of place conditioning to low morphine doses. Consistent with the role for RGSz1 as a negative modulator of MOPR activity, RGSz1KO enhances opioid-induced cAMP inhibition in periaqueductal gray (PAG) membranes. Furthermore, using a new generation of bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) sensors, we demonstrate that RGSz1 modulates Gaz but not other Gai family subunits and selectively impedes MOPR-mediated Gaz signaling events invoked by morphine and other opioids. Our work highlights a regional and circuit- specific role of the G protein-signaling modulator RGSz1 in morphine reward, providing insights on midbrain intracellular pathways that control addiction-related behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023


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