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Papers of the Week

Papers: 16 May 2020 - 22 May 2020

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2020 Apr 29

Redox Biol


Melatonin alleviates morphine analgesic tolerance in mice by decreasing NLRP3 inflammasome activation.


Liu Q, Su L-Y, Sun C, Jiao L, Miao Y, Xu M, Luo R, Zuo X, Zhou R, Zheng P, Xiong W, Xue T, Yao Y-G
Redox Biol. 2020 Apr 29; 34:101560.
PMID: 32413745.


Morphine is frequently used for pain relief, but long-term morphine therapy in patients with chronic pain results in analgesic tolerance and hyperalgesia. There are no effective therapeutic treatments that limit these detrimental side effects. We found pretreatment with melatonin could decrease morphine-induced analgesic tolerance. There was a significant activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome in the prefrontal cortex and the peripheral blood of morphine-treated mice compared to control animals, which could be blocked by melatonin. The inflammasome activation induced by morphine was mediated by the microglia. SiRNA knockdown or pharmacological inhibition of the NLRP3 abolished the morphine-induced inflammasome activation. Co-administration of melatonin and low-dose morphine had better analgesia effects in the murine models of pain and led to a lower NLRP3 inflammasome activity in brain tissues. Mice deficient for Nlrp3 had a higher nociceptive threshold and were less sensitive to develop morphine-induced analgesic tolerance and acetic acid-induced pain relative to wild-type animals. Concordantly, we observed a significantly elevated level of serum IL-1β, which indicates an increase of NLRP3 inflammasome activity associated with the reduced level of serum melatonin, in heroin-addicted patients relative to healthy individuals. Our results provide a solid basis for conducting a clinical trial with the co-administration of melatonin and morphine for the relief of severe pain.