JOURNAL ARTICLE

Activation of mu- and delta-opioid receptors causes presynaptic inhibition of glutamatergic excitation in neocortical neurons

A M Ostermeier, B Schlösser, D Schwender, B Sutor
Anesthesiology 2000, 93 (4): 1053-63
11020761

BACKGROUND: The mechanism underlying the depressant effect of opioids on neuronal activity within the neocortex is still not clear. Three modes of action have been suggested: (1) inhibition by activation of postsynaptic potassium channels, (2) interaction with postsynaptic glutamate receptors, and (3) presynaptic inhibition of glutamate release. To address this issue, the authors investigated the effects of mu- and delta-receptor agonists on excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) and on membrane properties of neocortical neurons.

METHODS: Intracellular recordings were performed in rat brain slices. Stimulus-evoked EPSCs mediated by different glutamate receptor subtypes were pharmacologically isolated, and opioids were applied by addition to the bathing medium. Possible postsynaptic interactions between glutamate and opioid receptors were investigated using microiontophoretic application of glutamate on neurons functionally isolated from presynaptic input.

RESULTS: delta-Receptor activation by d-Ala2-d-Leu5-enkephalin (DADLE) reduced the amplitudes of EPSCs by maximum 60% in a naltrindole-reversible manner (EC50: 6-15 nm). In 30-40% of the neurons investigated, higher concentrations (0.1-1 micrometer) of DADLE activated small outward currents. The mu-receptor selective agonist d-Ala2-N-MePhe5-Gly5-ol-enkephalin (0.1-1 micrometer) depressed the amplitudes of EPSCs by maximum 30% without changes in postsynaptic membrane properties. In the absence of synaptic transmission, inward currents induced by microiontophoretic application of glutamate were not affected by DADLE.

CONCLUSIONS: Activation of mu- and delta-opioid receptors depresses glutamatergic excitatory transmission evoked in neocortical neurons by presynaptic inhibition. A weak activation of a postsynaptic potassium conductance becomes evident only at high agonist concentrations. There is no evidence for a postsynaptic interaction between glutamate and opioid receptors.

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