Endorphins: profound behavioral effects in rats suggest new etiological factors in mental illness

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Science  05 Nov 1976:
Vol. 194, Issue 4265, pp. 630-632
DOI: 10.1126/science.185694


The endogenous morphinomimetic brain peptides Met5-enkephalin and alpha-, beta-, and gamma-endorphins have been evaluated in rats after intracerebrospinal fluid injection. beta-Endorphin produces marked, prolonged muscular rigidity and immobility similar to a catatonic state, counteracted by the opiate antagonist naloxone; this effect occurs at molar doses 1/100 to 1/400 that at which the other peptides or morphine block the response to painful stimuli. All peptides evoked dose-related, naloxone-reversible, wet-dog shakes in rats that had not been exposed to drugs. beta-Endorphin produced hypothermia, whereas gamma-endorphin produced hyperthermia. Such potent and divergent responses to naturally occurring subtances suggest that alterations in their homeostatic regulation could have etiological significance in mental illness.