Orphanin FQ (OFQ) is a novel heptadecapeptide whose structure resembles that of dynorphin A1–17. Its receptor shares appreciable homology with µ-, δ- and ĸ-opioid receptors, and is highly expressed in the hypothalamus. The present study examined the effects of OFQ on neurons within the arcuate nucleus (ARC) of the mediobasal hypothalamus, using intracellular recordings from coronal slices. In current clamp, OFQ produced a hyperpolarization of ARC neurons, including those immunopositive for β-endorphin, tyrosine hydroxylase and gonadotropin-releasing hormone. This hyperpolarization was dose-dependent, insensitive to antagonism by naloxone and was associated with a decrease in input resistance. In voltage clamp, OFQ produced an outward current associated with an increase in conductance. Varying the extracellular K+ concentration shifted the reversal potential for the OFQ response to the degree predicted by the Nernst equation. Furthermore, barium chloride markedly attenuated both the OFQ-induced hyperpolarization and decrease in input resistance. Administration of maximally effective concentrations of OFQ, followed by coadministration of maximal concentrations of either OFQ and the µ-opioid receptor agonist DAMGO or OFQ and the GABAB receptor agonist baclofen produced additive hyperpolarizations and outward currents. If DAMGO was applied first, followed by the coadministration of DAMGO and OFQ, then the responses were occluded. Taken together, these results indicate that OFQ inhibits β-endorphin neurons, as well as A12 dopamine and GnRH neurosecretory cells, within the ARC by activating a subset of inwardly-rectifying K+ channels. This suggests that OFQ is not only an antiopioid peptide, but that it also modulates the hypothalamo-pituitary axis and, ultimately, reproductive behavior.

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