Abstract

The intraventricular injection of methionine-enkephalin (50 to 100 micrograms) or [d-Ala2]-methionine-enkephalinamide (1.5 to 12 micrograms), a synthetic enkephalin analog resistant to enzyme degradation, caused a marked dose-dependent increase in dihydroxyphenylacetic acid and homovanillic acid concentrations in the rat striatum. The [d-Ala2] analog increased the accumulation of dopa in the striatum after aromatic amino acid decarboxylase inhibition, indicating that it increased dopamine synthesis. At the highest doses used both enkephalins failed to modify brain serotonin metabolism. The monolateral microinjection of the [d-Ala2]] analog (3 to 6 micrograms) into the caudate nucleus increased the concentration of dihydroxyphenylacetic acid in the injected side, whereas bilateral injection increased the concentration of this compound in both caudate nuclei and caused catalepsy. The stimulant effect of the [d-Ala2] analog on dopamine synthesis in the striatum persisted after destruction of striatal postsynaptic dopamine receptors with kainic acid. The biochemical and behavioral effects of enkephalins were prevented by naloxone, a specific narcotic antagonist. The results indicate that enkephalins stimulate dopamine synthesis by an action on opioid receptors localized on dopaminergic nerve terminals.