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Papers of the Week

Papers: 27 Aug 2022 - 2 Sep 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development


Front Toxicol


Dose-dependent consequences of sub-chronic fentanyl exposure on neuron and glial co-cultures.


Lam D, Sebastian A, Bogguri C, Hum NR, Ladd A, Cadena J, Valdez CA, Fischer NO, Loots GG, Enright HA
Front Toxicol. 2022; 4:983415.
PMID: 36032789.


Fentanyl is one of the most common opioid analgesics administered to patients undergoing surgery or for chronic pain management. While the side effects of chronic fentanyl abuse are recognized (e.g., addiction, tolerance, impairment of cognitive functions, and inhibit nociception, arousal, and respiration), it remains poorly understood what and how changes in brain activity from chronic fentanyl use influences the respective behavioral outcome. Here, we examined the functional and molecular changes to cortical neural network activity following sub-chronic exposure to two fentanyl concentrations, a low (0.01 μM) and high (10 μM) dose. Primary rat co-cultures, containing cortical neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocyte precursor cells, were seeded in wells on either a 6-well multi-electrode array (MEA, for electrophysiology) or a 96-well tissue culture plate (for serial endpoint bulk RNA sequencing analysis). Once networks matured (at 28 days ), co-cultures were treated with 0.01 or 10 μM of fentanyl for 4 days and monitored daily. Only high dose exposure to fentanyl resulted in a decline in features of spiking and bursting activity as early as 30 min post-exposure and sustained for 4 days in cultures. Transcriptomic analysis of the complex cultures after 4 days of fentanyl exposure revealed that both the low and high dose induced gene expression changes involved in synaptic transmission, inflammation, and organization of the extracellular matrix. Collectively, the findings of this study suggest that while neuroadaptive changes to neural network activity at a systems level was detected only at the high dose of fentanyl, transcriptomic changes were also detected at the low dose conditions, suggesting that fentanyl rapidly elicits changes in plasticity.