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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Delta opioid receptor activation modulates affective pain and modality-specific pain hypersensitivity associated with chronic neuropathic pain.

  • Author(s): Cahill, Catherine M
  • Holdridge, Sarah V
  • Liu, Shiwei Steve
  • Xue, Lihua
  • Magnussen, Claire
  • Ong, Edmund
  • Grenier, Patrick
  • Sutherland, Anne
  • Olmstead, Mary C
  • et al.

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Delta opioid receptor (DOR) agonists alleviate nociceptive behaviors in various chronic pain models, including neuropathic pain, while having minimal effect on sensory thresholds in the absence of injury. The mechanisms underlying nerve injury-induced enhancement of DOR function are unclear. We used a peripheral nerve injury (PNI) model of neuropathic pain to assess changes in the function and localization of DORs in mice and rats. Intrathecal administration of DOR agonists reversed mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia. The dose-dependent thermal antinociceptive effects of DOR agonists were shifted to the left in PNI rats. Administration of DOR agonists produced a conditioned place preference in PNI, but not in sham, animals, whereas the DOR antagonist naltrindole produced a place aversion in PNI, but not in sham, mice, suggesting the engagement of endogenous DOR activity in suppressing pain associated with the injury. GTPγS autoradiography revealed an increase in DOR function in the dorsal spinal cord, ipsilateral to PNI. Immunogold electron microscopy and in vivo fluorescent agonist assays were used to assess changes in the ultrastructural localization of DORs in the spinal dorsal horn. In shams, DORs were primarily localized within intracellular compartments. PNI significantly increased the cell surface expression of DORs within lamina IV-V dendritic profiles. Using neonatal capsaicin treatment, we identified that DOR agonist-induced thermal antinociception was mediated via receptors expressed on primary afferent sensory neurons but did not alter mechanical thresholds. These data reveal that the regulation of DORs following PNI and suggest the importance of endogenous activation of DORs in regulating chronic pain states.

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This item is under embargo until September 1, 2021.