We studied the effects of various doses of the opiate derivative buprenorphine on serum prolactin levels and whether these effects could be counteracted by pretreatment with the opiate receptor blocker naloxone. The administration of increasing doses of buprenorphine exerted a dual effect on serum prolactin levels. At low doses (3, 10 and 30 micrograms/kg) this agent increased serum prolactin levels. This effect disappeared with increasing doses (100 and 300 micrograms/kg), and at the highest doses (1000 and 3000 micrograms/kg) the levels of serum prolactin decreased. Naloxone (30 mg/kg) decreased serum prolactin levels and reversed both the stimulatory and the inhibitory action of buprenorphine. These data are compatible with the hypothesis that buprenorphine could interfere with two different, but inter-dependent receptors: at low doses the oripavine derivative could act at one receptor site to cause an increase of serum prolactin, whereas at higher doses it could interact with a second site of lower affinity that is responsible for the inhibition of prolactin secretion. When buprenorphine (at high doses) activates the lower affinity site, the interaction with this receptor counteracts and reverses the effects of the high affinity site. On the basis of this hypothesis, naloxone should block both receptors.
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