Beta-endorphin modulates the acute response to a social conflict in male mice but does not play a role in stress-induced changes in sleep

Lobke Maria Vaanholt, Fred W Turek, Peter Meerlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Beta-endorphin is an endogenous opioid peptide that is released during stress and has been associated with many physiological functions. In this experiment beta-endorphin deficient mice were used to study the role of endorphins in the acute physiological and behavioral responses to a social conflict, as well as their role in social stress-induced changes in sleep. Adult male beta-endorphin deficient and wild type mice were subjected to the stress of a 1 h social conflict with an aggressive dominant conspecific. After the conflict, the beta-endorphin deficient mice had higher corticosterone levels but the peak increase in body temperature was not different from that in wild type animals. In fact, body temperature returned to baseline levels faster in the beta-endorphin deficient mice. During their interaction with the aggressive conspecific several of the beta-endorphin deficient mice showed clear signs of counter aggression whereas this was not seen in any of the wild type mice. Overall, the beta-endorphin deficient mice and wild type mice had fairly similar sleep patterns under baseline conditions and also showed similar amounts of NREM sleep, REM sleep and EEG slow-wave energy after the social conflict. In addition, no differences were found in the sleep patterns of mice that showed counter aggression and mice that did not. In conclusion, the results suggest that beta-endorphin modulates the acute endocrine, thermoregulatory and behavioral response to a social conflict but the data do not support a major role for beta-endorphin in the regulation of sleep or social stress-induced alterations in sleep.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-176
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1-2
Early online date17 May 2003
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2003


  • Aggression
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Body Temperature
  • Body Weight
  • Conflict (Psychology)
  • Corticosterone
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Sleep
  • Time Factors
  • beta-Endorphin
  • Social conflict
  • Opioid
  • Glucocorticocoid
  • Body temperature
  • REM sleep


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