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Papers of the Week

Papers: 16 Nov 2019 - 22 Nov 2019

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2020 Mar




Wnt signaling contributes to withdrawal symptoms from opioid receptor activation induced by morphine exposure or chronic inflammation.


Wu M-Z, Li Z-H, Liang L, Ma P-C, Cui D, Chen P, Wu G-H, Song X-J
Pain. 2020 Mar; 161(3):532-544.
PMID: 31738230.


Preventing and treating opioid dependence and withdrawal is a major clinical challenge, and the underlying mechanisms of opioid dependence and withdrawal remain elusive. We hypothesized that prolonged morphine exposure or chronic inflammation-induced μ-opioid receptor activity serves as a severe stress that elicit neuronal alterations and recapitulates events during development. Here, we report that Wnt signaling, which is important in developmental processes of the nervous system, plays a critical role in withdrawal symptoms from opioid receptor activation in mice. Repeated exposures of morphine or peripheral inflammation produced by intraplantar injection of Complete Freund's Adjuvant significantly increases the expression of Wnt5b in the primary sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglion (DRG). Accumulated Wnt5b in DRG neurons quickly transmits to the spinal cord dorsal horn (DH) following naloxone treatment. In the DH, Wnt5b, acts through the atypical Wnt-Ryk receptor and alternative Wnt-YAP/TAZ signaling pathways, contributing to the naloxone-precipitated opioid withdrawal-like behavioral symptoms and hyperalgesia. Inhibition of Wnt synthesis and blockage of Wnt signaling pathways greatly suppress the behavioral and neurochemical alterations after naloxone-precipitated withdrawal. These findings reveal a critical mechanism underlying naloxone-precipitated opioid withdrawal, suggesting that targeting Wnt5b synthesis in DRG neurons and Wnt signaling in DH may be an effective approach for prevention and treatment of opioid withdrawal syndromes, as well as the transition from acute to chronic pain.