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Papers of the Week

Papers: 11 Feb 2023 - 17 Feb 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2023 Feb 03



Photopharmacology with light-activated opioid drugs.


McClain SP, Ma X, Johnson DA, Johnson CA, Layden AE, Yung JC, Lubejko ST, Livrizzi G, Jenny He X, Zhou 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 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 , we developed PhOX and 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 during chronic morphine administration. This work establishes a general experimental framework for using photopharmacology to study the neural basis of drug action.