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Papers of the Week

Papers: 24 Dec 2022 - 30 Dec 2022

2022 Dec 14

Int J Mol Sci



µ-Opioid Receptors Expressed by Intrinsically Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells Contribute to Morphine-Induced Behavioral Sensitization.


Opioid drugs are the most effective tools for treating moderate to severe pain. Despite their analgesic efficacy, long-term opioid use can lead to drug tolerance, addiction, and sleep/wake disturbances. While the link between opioids and sleep/wake problems is well-documented, the mechanism underlying opioid-related sleep/wake problems remains largely unresolved. Importantly, intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), the cells that transmit environmental light/dark information to the brain's sleep/circadian centers to regulate sleep/wake behavior, express μ-opioid receptors (MORs). In this study, we explored the potential contribution of ipRGCs to opioid-related sleep/circadian disruptions. Using implanted telemetry transmitters, we measured changes in horizontal locomotor activity and body temperature in mice over the course of a chronic morphine paradigm. Mice lacking MORs expressed by ipRGCs (McKO) exhibited reduced morphine-induced behavioral activation/sensitization compared with control littermates with normal patterns of MOR expression. Contrastingly, mice lacking MORs globally (MKO) did not acquire morphine-induced locomotor activation/sensitization. Control mice also showed morphine-induced hypothermia in both the light and dark phases, while McKO littermates only exhibited morphine-induced hypothermia in the dark. Interestingly, only control animals appeared to acquire tolerance to morphine's hypothermic effect. Morphine, however, did not acutely decrease the body temperature of MKO mice. These findings support the idea that MORs expressed by ipRGCs could contribute to opioid-related sleep/wake problems and thermoregulatory changes.