Supraspinal and spinal delta(2) opioid receptor-mediated antinociceptive synergy is mediated by spinal alpha(2) adrenoceptors

Pain. 1999 Oct;83(1):47-55. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3959(99)00084-6.


Concurrent administration of low doses of [D-Ala(2), Glu(4)]deltorphin (DELT) in the spinal cord and rostral ventromedial medulla of the rat produces a synergistic antinociception in the tail-flick test. It was postulated that the synergistic antinociception results from an interaction of the intrathecally-administered DELT with norepinephrine released in the spinal cord as a result of the microinjection of DELT in the rostral ventromedial medulla. Three approaches were taken to test this hypothesis. The first experiment determined that microinjection of DELT in the rostral ventromedial medulla produced an increase in tail-flick latency that was partially attenuated by intrathecal administration of the alpha(2)-adrenoceptor antagonist yohimbine. These data indicated that microinjection of DELT in the medulla causes a release of norepinephrine in the spinal cord. The second experiment determined that intrathecal co-administration of DELT with the alpha(2)-adrenoceptor agonist dexmedetomidine in a 2:1 fixed dose ratio produced a synergistic antinociception in the tail-flick test. The final experiment determined that the antinociception produced by concurrent medullary and intrathecal administration of DELT was completely antagonized by intrathecal administration of yohimbine. Taken together, these findings support the hypothesis that the synergistic antinociception produced by concurrent activation of medullary and spinal delta(2) opioid receptors is mediated, in part, by endogenous norepinephrine release in the spinal cord. The norepinephrine, acting at alpha(2)-adrenoceptors, interacts in a synergistic manner with intrathecally administered DELT, acting at spinal delta(2) opioid receptors, to produce antinociception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Anesthesia, Spinal
  • Animals
  • Dexmedetomidine / pharmacology
  • Drug Synergism
  • Injections, Spinal
  • Male
  • Nociceptors / drug effects*
  • Nociceptors / physiology
  • Norepinephrine / pharmacology
  • Norepinephrine / physiology*
  • Oligopeptides / administration & dosage
  • Oligopeptides / pharmacology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / physiology
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Yohimbine / pharmacology


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Oligopeptides
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta
  • deltorphin II, Ala(2)-
  • Yohimbine
  • Dexmedetomidine
  • Norepinephrine