The genetic mechanisms of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) and the involvement of the catecholamine system in the brain have not been elucidated. Eating kaolin clay as a type of pica has been examined as an alternative behavior to emesis. Here, we evaluated changes in whole-transcriptome analysis in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) in a rat pica model as a surrogate behavior of PONV to elucidate the molecular genetic mechanisms of the development of PONV and the involvement of the catecholamine system in the NTS. First, kaolin pica behaviors were investigated in 71 female Wistar rats following isoflurane anesthesia, surgical insult or morphine administration. Multiple linear regression analysis showed that 3 mg/kg morphine increased kaolin intake by 2.8 g (P = 0.0002). Next, total RNA and protein were extracted from the dissected NTS, and whole-transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) was performed to identify PONV-associated genes and to verify the involvement of the catecholamine system. The gene expression levels of tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine beta-hydroxylase in the catecholamine biosynthesis pathway decreased significantly in the PONV model. Release of noradrenaline, a catecholamine pathway end product, may have increased at the synaptic terminal of the NTS neuron after pica behavior. Systematic administration of α2 adrenergic receptor agonists after surgery reduced kaolin intake from 3.2 g (control) to 1.0 g (P = 0.0014). These results indicated that catecholamine neurotransmission was involved in the development of PONV in the NTS.
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