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Papers of the Week

Papers: 6 Jan 2024 - 12 Jan 2024

2023 Dec 20



Sensitization of Human and Rat Nociceptors by Low Dose Morphine is TLR4-dependent.


Khomula EV, Levine JD


While opioids remain amongst the most effective treatments for moderate-to-severe pain, their substantial side effect profile remains a major limitation to broader clinical use. One such side effect is opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH), which includes a transition from opioid-induced analgesia to pain enhancement. Evidence in rodents supports the suggestion that OIH may be produced by the action of opioids at Toll-like Receptor 4 (TLR4) either on immune cells that, in turn, produce pronociceptive mediators to act on nociceptors, or by a direct action at nociceptor TLR4. And, sub-analgesic doses of several opioids have been shown to induce hyperalgesia in rodents by their action as TLR4 agonists. In the present patch-clamp electrophysiology experiments, we demonstrate that low dose morphine directly sensitizes human as well as rodent dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, an effect of this opioid analgesic that is antagonized by LPS-RS Ultrapure, a selective TLR4 antagonist. We found that morphine (100 nM) reduced rheobase in human (by 36%) and rat (by 26%) putative C-type nociceptors, an effect of morphine that was markedly attenuated by preincubation with LPS-RS Ultrapure. Our findings support the suggestion that in humans, as well as in rodents, OIH is mediated by the direct action of opioids at TLR4 on nociceptors.