Sustained inhibition of neurotransmitter release from nontransient receptor potential vanilloid type 1-expressing primary afferents by mu-opioid receptor activation-enkephalin in the spinal cord

Hong-Yi Zhou, Shao-Rui Chen, Hong Chen, Hui-Lin Pan
Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 2008, 327 (2): 375-82
Removing transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1)-expressing primary afferent neurons reduces presynaptic mu-opioid receptors but potentiates opioid analgesia. However, the sites and underlying cellular mechanisms for this paradoxical effect remain uncertain. In this study, we determined the presynaptic and postsynaptic effects of the mu-opioid receptor agonist [D-Ala(2),N-Me-Phe(4),Gly-ol(5)]-enkephalin (DAMGO) using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings of lamina II neurons in rat spinal cord slices. Treatment with the ultrapotent TRPV1 agonist resiniferotoxin (RTX) eliminated TRPV1-expressing dorsal root ganglion neurons and their central terminals in the spinal dorsal horn and significantly reduced the basal amplitude of glutamatergic excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) evoked from primary afferents. Although RTX treatment did not significantly alter the concentration-response effect of DAMGO on evoked monosynaptic and polysynaptic EPSCs, it causes a profound long-lasting inhibitory effect of DAMGO on evoked EPSCs. Subsequent naloxone treatment did not reverse the prolonged inhibitory effect of DAMGO on evoked EPSCs. Furthermore, brief application of DAMGO produced a sustained inhibition of miniature EPSCs in RTX-treated rats. However, the concentration response and the duration of the effects of DAMGO on G protein-coupled inwardly rectifying K+ currents in lamina II neurons were not significantly different between vehicle- and RTX-treated groups. These data suggest that stimulation of mu-opioid receptors on non-TRPV1 afferent terminals causes extended inhibition of neurotransmitter release to spinal dorsal horn neurons. The differential effect of mu-opioid receptor agonists on different phenotypes of primary afferents provides a cellular basis to explain why the analgesic action of opioids on mechanonociception is prolonged when TRPV1-expressing primary afferents are removed.

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