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JOURNAL ARTICLE

D-serine in the midbrain periaqueductal gray contributes to morphine tolerance in rats

Song Cao, Zhi Xiao, Mengjie Sun, Youyan Li
Molecular Pain 2016, 12
27175014

BACKGROUND: The N-methyl-D-aspartate subtype of glutamate receptor plays a critical role in morphine tolerance. D-serine, a co-agonist of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, participates in many physiological and pathophysiological processes via regulating N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor activation. The purinergic P2X7 receptor activation can induce the D-serine release in the central nervous system. This study aimed to investigate the role of the ventrolateral midbrain periaqueductal gray D-serine in the mechanism of morphine tolerance in rats. The development of morphine tolerance was induced in normal adult male Sprague-Dawley rats through subcutaneous injection of morphine (10 mg/kg). The analgesic effect of morphine (5 mg/kg, i.p.) was assessed by measuring mechanical withdrawal thresholds in rats with an electronic von Frey anesthesiometer. The D-serine concentration and serine racemase expression levels in the ventrolateral midbrain periaqueductal gray were evaluated through enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot analysis, respectively. The effects of intra-ventrolateral midbrain periaqueductal gray injections of the D-serine degrading enzyme D-amino acid oxidase and antisense oligodeoxynucleotide targeting the P2X7 receptor on chronic morphine-treated rats were also explored.

RESULTS: We found that repeated morphine administrations decreased the antinociceptive potency of morphine evidenced by the percent changes in mechanical pain threshold in rats. By contrast, the D-serine contents and the expression levels of the serine racemase protein were upregulated in the ventrolateral midbrain periaqueductal gray in morphine-tolerant rats. The development of morphine tolerance was markedly alleviated by intra-ventrolateral midbrain periaqueductal gray injections of D-amino acid oxidase or antisense oligodeoxynucleotide targeting the P2X7 receptor.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that the development of antinociceptive tolerance to morphine is partially mediated by ventrolateral midbrain periaqueductal gray D-serine content, and the activation of the ventrolateral midbrain periaqueductal gray P2X7 receptor is an essential prelude to D-serine release. These results suggest that a cascade involving P2X7 receptor-D-serine-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor mediated signaling pathway in the supraspinal mechanism of morphine tolerance.

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