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Papers of the Week

Papers: 11 Jul 2020 - 17 Jul 2020

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2020 Jul 14

J Pharmacol Exp Ther

Mirtazapine, an α2 antagonist-type antidepressant reverses pain and lack of morphine analgesia in fibromyalgia-like mouse models.


Treatment for fibromyalgia is an unmet medical need; however, its pathogenesis is still poorly understood. In a series of studies, we have demonstrated that some pharmacological treatments reverse generalized chronic pain, but do not affect the lack of morphine analgesia in the intermittent cold stress (ICS)-induced fibromyalgia-like pain model in mice. Here we report that repeated intraperitoneal treatments with mirtazapine (Mir), which is presumed to disinhibit 5-HT release and activate 5-HT1 receptor through mechanisms of blocking presynaptic adrenergic α2, postsynaptic 5-HT2 and 5-HT3 receptors, completely reversed the chronic pain for more than 4-5 days after the cessation of treatments. The repeated Mir-treatments also recovered the morphine analgesia after the return of nociceptive threshold to the normal level. The microinjection of siRNA adrenergic α2a receptor (ADRA2A) into the habenula, which showed a selective upregulation of α2 receptor gene expression after ICS, reversed the hyperalgesia, but did not recover the morphine analgesia. However, both reversal of hyperalgesia and recovery of morphine analgesia were observed when siRNA ADRA2A was administered intracebroventricularly. As the habenular is reported to be involved in the emotion/reward-related pain and hypoalgesia, these results suggest that Mir could attenuate pain and/or augment hypoalgesia by blocking the habenular α2 receptor after ICS. The recovery of morphine analgesia in the ICS model, on the other hand, seems to be mediated through a blockade of α2 receptor in unidentified brain regions. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: This study reports possible mechanisms underlying the complete reversal of hyperalgesia and recovery of morphine analgesia by mirtazapine, a unique antidepressant with adrenergic α2 and serotonergic receptor antagonist properties, in a type of intermittently repeated stress (ICS)-induced fibromyalgia-like pain model. Habenula, a brain region which is related to the control of emotional pain, was found to play key roles in the anti-hyperalgesia, while other brain regions appeared to be involved in the recovery of morphine analgesia in the ICS-model.