Exploring the neurobiology of the premonitory phase of migraine preclinically – a role for hypothalamic kappa opioid receptors?

Caroline M. Kopruszinski, Robson Vizin, Moe Watanabe, Ashley L. Martinez, Luiz Henrique Moreira de Souza, David W. Dodick, Frank Porreca, Edita Navratilova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The migraine premonitory phase is characterized in part by increased thirst, urination and yawning. Imaging studies show that the hypothalamus is activated in the premonitory phase. Stress is a well know migraine initiation factor which was demonstrated to engage dynorphin/kappa opioid receptors (KOR) signaling in several brain regions, including the hypothalamus. This study proposes the exploration of the possible link between hypothalamic KOR and migraine premonitory symptoms in rodent models. Methods: Rats were treated systemically with the KOR agonist U-69,593 followed by yawning and urination monitoring. Apomorphine, a dopamine D1/2 agonist, was used as a positive control for yawning behaviors. Urination and water consumption following systemic administration of U-69,593 was also assessed. To examine if KOR activation specifically in the hypothalamus can promote premonitory symptoms, AAV8-hSyn-DIO-hM4Di (Gi-DREADD)-mCherry viral vector was microinjected into the right arcuate nucleus (ARC) of female and male KORCRE or KORWT mice. Four weeks after the injection, clozapine N-oxide (CNO) was administered systemically followed by the assessment of urination, water consumption and tactile sensory response. Results: Systemic administration of U-69,593 increased urination but did not produce yawning in rats. Systemic KOR agonist also increased urination in mice as well as water consumption. Cell specific Gi-DREADD activation (i.e., inhibition through Gi-coupled signaling) of KORCRE neurons in the ARC also increased water consumption and the total volume of urine in mice but did not affect tactile sensory responses. Conclusion: Our studies in rodents identified the KOR in a hypothalamic region as a mechanism that promotes behaviors consistent with clinically-observed premonitory symptoms of migraine, including increased thirst and urination but not yawning. Importantly, these behaviors occurred in the absence of pain responses, consistent with the emergence of the premonitory phase before the headache phase. Early intervention for preventive treatment even before the headache phase may be achievable by targeting the hypothalamic KOR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number126
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Arcuate nucleus
  • Hypothalamus
  • Kappa opioid receptors (KOR)
  • Migraine prevention
  • Premonitory phase
  • Premonitory symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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