Receptor-mediated AKT/PI3K signalling and behavioural alterations in zebrafish larvae reveal association between schizophrenia and opioid use disorder

Siroshini K. Thiagarajan, Siew Ying Mok, Satoshi Ogawa, Ishwar S. Parhar, Pek Yee Tang

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The link between substance abuse and the development of schizophrenia remains elusive. In this study, we assessed the molecular and behavioural alterations associated with schizophrenia, opioid addiction, and opioid withdrawal using zebrafish as a biological model. Larvae of 2 days post fertilization (dpf) were exposed to domperidone (DMP), a dopamine-D2 dopamine D2 receptor antagonist, and morphine for 3 days and 10 days, respectively. MK801, an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, served as a positive control to mimic schizophrenia-like behaviour. The withdrawal syndrome was assessed 5 days after the termination of morphine treatment. The expressions of schizophrenia susceptibility genes, i.e., pi3k, akt1, slc6a4, creb1 and adamts2, in brains were quantified, and the levels of whole-body cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), serotonin and cortisol were measured. The aggressiveness of larvae was observed using the mirror biting test. After the short-term treatment with DMP and morphine, all studied genes were not differen-tially expressed. As for the long-term exposure, akt1 was downregulated by DMP and morphine. Downregulation of pi3k and slc6a4 was observed in the morphine-treated larvae, whereas creb1 and adamts2 were upregulated by DMP. The levels of cAMP and cortisol were elevated after 3 days, whereas significant increases were observed in all of the biochemical tests after 10 days. Compared to controls, increased aggression was observed in the DMP-, but not morphine-, treated group. These two groups showed reduction in aggressiveness when drug exposure was prolonged. Both the short-and long-term morphine withdrawal groups showed downregulation in all genes examined except creb1, suggesting dysregulated reward circuitry function. These results suggest that biochemical and behavioural alterations in schizophrenia-like symptoms and opioid dependence could be controlled by common mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4715
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • addiction
  • behaviour
  • dopamine
  • schizophrenia
  • zebrafish

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