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Papers of the Week

Papers: 30 Jul 2022 - 5 Aug 2022

Animal Studies

2022 Jul 30


δ-Opioid receptors in primary sensory neurons tonically restrain nociceptive input in chronic pain but do not enhance morphine analgesic tolerance.


δ-Opioid receptors (DORs, encoded by the Oprd1 gene) are expressed throughout the peripheral and central nervous system, and DOR stimulation reduces nociception. Previous studies suggest DORs promote the development of analgesic tolerance of μ-opioid receptor (MOR) agonists. It is uncertain whether DORs expressed in primary sensory neurons are involved in regulating chronic pain and MOR agonist-induced tolerance. In this study, we generated Oprd1 conditional knockout (Oprd1-cKO) mice by crossing Advillin-Cre mice with Oprd1-floxed mice. DOR expression in the dorsal root ganglion was diminished in Oprd1-cKO mice. Systemic or intrathecal injection of the DOR agonist SNC-80 produced analgesia in wild-type (WT), but not Oprd1-cKO, mice. In contrast, intracerebroventricular injection of SNC-80 produced a similar analgesic effect in WT and Oprd1-cKO mice. However, morphine-induced analgesia, hyperalgesia, or analgesic tolerance did not differ between WT and Oprd1-cKO mice. Compared with WT mice, Oprd1-cKO mice showed increased mechanical and heat hypersensitivity after nerve injury or tissue inflammation. Furthermore, blocking DORs with naltrindole increased nociceptive sensitivity induced by nerve injury or tissue inflammation in WT, but not Oprd1-cKO, mice. In addition, naltrindole potentiated glutamatergic input from primary afferents to spinal dorsal horn neurons increased by nerve injury or CFA in WT mice; this effect was absent in Oprd1-cKO mice. Our findings indicate that DORs in primary sensory neurons are critically involved in the analgesic effect of DOR agonists but not morphine-induced analgesic tolerance. Presynaptic DORs at primary afferent central terminals constitutively inhibit inflammatory and neuropathic pain by restraining glutamatergic input to spinal dorsal horn neurons.