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Papers of the Week

Papers: 19 Feb 2022 - 25 Feb 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 Feb 17


Sex-specific role for serotonin 5-HT receptor in modulation of opioid-induced antinociception and reward in mice.


Sierra S, Muchhala KH, Jessup DK, Contreras KM, Shah UH, Stevens DL, Jimenez J, Cuno Lavilla XK, de la Fuente Revenga M, Lippold KM, Shen S, Poklis JL, Qiao LY, Dewey WL, Akbarali HI, Damaj IM, González-Maeso J
Neuropharmacology. 2022 Feb 17:108988.
PMID: 35183539.


Opioids are among the most effective analgesics and the mainstay of pain management. However, concerns about safety and abuse liability have challenged their widespread use by the medical community. Opioid-sparing therapies include drugs that in combination with opioids have the ability to enhance analgesia while decreasing opioid requirement as well as their side effects. Sex differences in antinociceptive responses to opioids have received increasing attention in recent years. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying sex differences related to opioid-sparing adjuncts remain largely unexplored. Using warm water tail-withdrawal as a mouse model of acute thermal nociception, our data suggest that adjunctive administration of the serotonin 5-HT receptor (5-HTR) antagonist volinanserin dose-dependently enhanced potency of the opioid analgesic oxycodone in male, but not female, mice. This antinociceptive-like response induced by oxycodone was also augmented in 5-HTR knockout (5-HTR) male, but not female mice; an effect that was reversed by Cre-loxP-mediated selective expression of 5-HTR in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons of 5-HTR littermates. Pharmacological inhibition with volinanserin or genetic deletion in 5-HTR animals potentiated the ability of oxycodone to reduce DRG excitability in male mice. Adjunctive volinanserin did not affect oxycodone-induced conditioned place preference (CPP), whereas it reduced oxycodone-induced locomotor sensitization in male and female mice. Together, these results suggest that adjunctive volinanserin augments opioid-induced antinociception, but not abuse-related behavior, through a sex-specific signaling crosstalk mechanism that requires 5-HTR expression in mouse DRG neurons. Ultimately, our results may pave the way for the clinical evaluation of volinanserin as a potential sex-specific opioid adjuvant.