Endogenous opioids belonging to three opioid families were measured in different states of the hibernation cycle in brain of the Columbian ground squirrels. Using high-performance liquid chromatography-EC detection, the hypothalamic and septal concentrations of met-enkephalin were found to be significantly higher (p < 0.05) in the hibernating state than that in the nonhibernating state. In contrast, met-enkephalin content in the medulla decreased significantly during hibernation. Leu-enkephalin content was only increased in the hypothalamus of hibernating animals. Using radioimmunoassay, dynorphin A-like immunoreactivity was observed to increase in the claustrum and striatum, whereas β-endorphin-like peptides showed a significant increase in the hypothalamus during hibernation. It is evident that the changes in endogenous opioids in brain during hibernation are state dependent, type specific and region specific. These specific alterations of various endogenous opioids may imply their different roles in hibernation.
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