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Papers of the Week

Papers: 9 May 2020 - 15 May 2020

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2020 May 05

Sci Signal



Inhibition of Hsp90 in the spinal cord enhances the antinociceptive effects of morphine by activating an ERK-RSK pathway.


Duron DI, Lei W, Barker NK, Stine C, Mishra S, Blagg BSJ, Langlais PR, Streicher JM
Sci Signal. 2020 May 05; 13(630).
PMID: 32371496.


Morphine and other opioids are commonly used to treat pain despite their numerous adverse side effects. Modulating μ-opioid receptor (MOR) signaling is one way to potentially improve opioid therapy. In mice, the chaperone protein Hsp90 mediates MOR signaling within the brain. Here, we found that inhibiting Hsp90 specifically in the spinal cord enhanced the antinociceptive effects of morphine in mice. Intrathecal, but not systemic, administration of the Hsp90 inhibitors 17-AAG or KU-32 amplified the effects of morphine in suppressing sensitivity to both thermal and mechanical stimuli in mice. Hsp90 inhibition enabled opioid-induced phosphorylation of the kinase ERK and increased abundance of the kinase RSK in the dorsal horns of the spinal cord, which are heavily populated with primary afferent sensory neurons. The additive effects of Hsp90 inhibition were abolished upon intrathecal inhibition of ERK, RSK, or protein synthesis. This mechanism downstream of MOR, localized to the spinal cord and repressed by Hsp90, may potentially be used to enhance the efficacy and presumably decrease the side effects of opioid therapy.