Immunological challenge modulates brain orphanin FQ/nociceptin and nociceptive behavior

Noriko Kawashima, Jean Fugate, Alexander W. Kusnecov

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22 Scopus citations


Orphanin FQ/Nociceptin (OFQ/N), an endogenous peptide found throughout the central nervous system, has been attributed with a wide range of functions, including modulation of motivational and emotional behavior, but most prominently, facilitation of hyperalgesia. It has also been shown that brain OFQ/N is stimulated during locally-induced peripheral inflammation, a condition well known to increase pain sensitivity. However, few studies have addressed whether specific immunological challenge using T-cell dependent and independent stimuli alters OFQ/N gene activation in the brain. Consequently, male C57BL/6J mice were challenged with 5 μg of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or a T-cell-activating bacterial superantigen, Staphyloccocal enterotoxin A (SEA), and levels of brain OFQ/N precursor, pNOC, mRNA were analyzed by semi-quantitative RT-PCR. In addition, nociceptive thresholds were examined in immunologically challenged mice using the hotplate test. Initial results on a combined region of the brain containing various limbic components, revealed increased levels of pNOC mRNA in response to SEA challenge, but not to LPS. Further analysis of more discrete brain regions revealed increased pNOC mRNA in the hypothalamus and amygdala in response to SEA. Interestingly, challenge with SEA, but not LPS, significantly reduced hindpaw-lick latency in the hot plate test, although this effect was observed only if the hotplate environment was unfamiliar, suggesting an interaction between immunological stimulation and novelty-induced stress. Since SEA induces various cytokines, including TNF-α, these results are consistent with a growing literature documenting the effects of cytokines on nociceptive functions, and a possible involvement of the OFQ/nociceptin system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-78
Number of pages8
JournalBrain research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 13 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


  • Cytokine
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Immune system
  • LPS
  • Neural-immune interaction
  • Nociceptin
  • Orphanin FQ
  • Staphylococcal enterotoxin A


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