Genetic differences in the rewarding and activating effects of morphine and ethanol

Christopher L. Cunningham, Douglas R. Niehus, Dorcas H. Malott, Liesl K. Prather

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

238 Scopus citations


The influence of genotype on the rewarding and locomotor activating effects of morphine and ethanol was examined in the place conditioning paradigm. Two inbred mouse strains (C57BL/6J and DBA/2J) were exposed to a differential conditioning procedure in which each mouse received four pairings of a distinctive floor stimulus with IP injection of morphine (0, 2.5, 5 or 10 mg/kg) or ethanol (0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 g/kg). A different floor stimulus was paired with saline. Conditioning trials lasted 30 min and each experiment concluded with a floor preference test in the absence of drug. In accord with previous studies, morphine evoked a dose-dependent increase in activity during conditioning that was greater in C57BL/6J mice than in DBA/2J mice. In contrast, ethanol produced a dose-dependent increase in activity that was greater in DBA/2J than in C57BL/6J mice. Both strains showed conditioned place preference with morphine, but only the DBA/2J strain showed conditioned place preference with ethanol. No conditioned place aversion was seen. With both drugs, stronger place preference conditioning was obtained in DBA/2J mice, supporting the general conclusion that sensitivity to drug reward is influenced by genotype. The fact that the same genotype is more sensitive to the rewarding effects of two different drugs supports theories postulating commonality in the biological mechanisms of drug reward. Although the outcome of the ethanol study supports predictions of the psychomotor stimulant theory of addiction concerning the relationship between drug-induced activation and reward, the outcome of the morphine study does not. The direction of the strain difference in conditioned place preference is opposite to what might be predicted on the basis of strain differences previously reported in drug consumption and preference studies, suggesting that genetic differences in drug consumption may not accurately reflect postabsorptive motivational effects of drug.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-393
Number of pages9
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Activity
  • Conditioned place preference
  • Ethanol
  • Inbred mice
  • Morphine
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Place conditioning
  • Psychomotor stimulant theory
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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