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Papers of the Week

Papers: 14 Oct 2023 - 20 Oct 2023

2023 Oct 09



Editor's Pick

In vivo photopharmacology with light-activated opioid drugs.


McClain SP, Ma X, Johnson DA, Johnson CA, Layden AE, Yung JC, Lubejko ST, Livrizzi G, He XJ, Zhou J, Chang-Weinberg J, Ventriglia E, Rizzo A, Levinstein M, Gomez JL, Bonaventura J, Michaelides M, Banghart MR


Traditional methods for site-specific drug delivery in the brain are slow, invasive, and difficult to interface with recordings of neural activity. Here, we demonstrate the feasibility and experimental advantages of in vivo photopharmacology using “caged” opioid drugs that are activated in the brain with light after systemic administration in an inactive form. To enable bidirectional manipulations of endogenous opioid receptors in vivo, we developed photoactivatable oxymorphone (PhOX) and photoactivatable naloxone (PhNX), photoactivatable variants of the mu opioid receptor agonist oxymorphone and the antagonist naloxone. Photoactivation of PhOX in multiple brain areas produced local changes in receptor occupancy, brain metabolic activity, neuronal calcium activity, neurochemical signaling, and multiple pain- and reward-related behaviors. Combining PhOX photoactivation with optical recording of extracellular dopamine revealed adaptations in the opioid sensitivity of mesolimbic dopamine circuitry in response to chronic morphine administration. This work establishes a general experimental framework for using in vivo photopharmacology to study the neural basis of drug action.