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Papers of the Week

Papers: 3 Sep 2022 - 9 Sep 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 Sep

Genes Brain Behav



Sex-specific role of the circadian transcription factor NPAS2 in opioid tolerance, withdrawal and analgesia.


Puig S, Shelton MA, Barko K, Seney ML, Logan RW
Genes Brain Behav. 2022 Sep; 21(7):e12829.
PMID: 36053258.


Opioids like fentanyl remain the mainstay treatment for chronic pain. Unfortunately, opioid's high dependence liability has led to the current opioid crisis, in part, because of side-effects that develop during long-term use, including analgesic tolerance and physical dependence. Both tolerance and dependence to opioids may lead to escalation of required doses to achieve previous therapeutic efficacy. Additionally, altered sleep and circadian rhythms are common in people on opioid therapy. Opioids impact sleep and circadian rhythms, while disruptions to sleep and circadian rhythms likely mediate the effects of opioids. However, the mechanisms underlying these bidirectional relationships between circadian rhythms and opioids remain largely unknown. The circadian protein, neuronal PAS domain protein 2 (NPAS2), regulates circadian-dependent gene transcription in structure of the central nervous system that modulate opioids and pain. Here, male and female wild-type and NPAS2-deficient (NPAS2-/-) mice were used to investigate the role of NPAS2 in fentanyl analgesia, tolerance, hyperalgesia and physical dependence. Overall, thermal pain thresholds, acute analgesia and tolerance to a fixed dose of fentanyl were largely similar between wild-type and NPAS2-/- mice. However, female NPAS2-/- exhibited augmented analgesic tolerance and significantly more behavioral symptoms of physical dependence to fentanyl. Only male NPAS2-/- mice had increased fentanyl-induced hypersensitivity, when compared with wild-type males. Together, our findings suggest sex-specific effects of NPAS2 signaling in the regulation of fentanyl-induced tolerance, hyperalgesia and dependence.