Modulation of melanocortin-induced changes in spinal nociception by mu-opioid receptor agonist and antagonist in neuropathic rats

Neuroreport. 2002 Dec 20;13(18):2447-52. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200212200-00015.


Co-localization of opioid and melanocortin receptor expression, especially at the spinal cord level in the dorsal horn and in the gray matter surrounding the central canal led to the suggestion that melanocortins might play a role in nociceptive processes. In the present studies, we aimed to determine the effects of melanocortins, administered intrathecally, on allodynia, and to ascertain whether there is an interaction between opioid and melanocortin systems at the spinal cord level. Neuropathic pain was induced by chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the right sciatic nerve in rats. Tactile allodynia was assessed using von Frey filaments, while thermal hyperlagesia was evaluated in cold water allodynia test. In the present experiments, melanocortin receptor antagonist, SHU9119 was much more potent than mu-opioid receptor agonist, morphine after their intrathecal ( administration in neuropathic rats. SHU9119 alleviated allodynia in a comparable manner to DAMGO, a selective and potent mu-opioid receptor agonist. Administration of melanocortin receptor agonist, melanotan-II (MTII) increased the sensitivity to tactile and cold stimulation. Moreover, we demonstrated that the selective blockade of mu-opioid receptor by cyprodime (CP) enhanced antiallodynic effect of SHU9119 as well as pronociceptive action of MTII, whereas the combined administration of mu receptor agonist (DAMGO) and SHU9119 significantly reduced the analgesic effect of those ligands. DAMGO also reversed the proallodynic effect of melanocortin receptor agonist, MTII. In conclusion, it seems that the endogenous opioidergic system acts as a functional antagonist of melanocortinergic system, and mu-opioid receptor activity appears to be involved in the modulation of melanocortin system function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Enkephalin, Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly(5)- / pharmacology
  • Injections, Spinal
  • Male
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones / pharmacology
  • Morphinans / pharmacology
  • Morphine / pharmacology
  • Nociceptors / drug effects
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Oligopeptides / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4
  • Receptors, Corticotropin / agonists
  • Receptors, Corticotropin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Corticotropin / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / agonists
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / metabolism*
  • Sciatica / drug therapy
  • Sciatica / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • alpha-MSH / analogs & derivatives


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphinans
  • Oligopeptides
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4
  • Receptors, Corticotropin
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • acetyl-norleucyl(4)-(aspartyl(5)-histidyl(6)-phenylalanyl(7)-arginyl(8)-tryptophyl(9)-lysyl(10))cyclo-alpha-MSH(4-10)amide
  • Enkephalin, Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly(5)-
  • cyprodime
  • SHU 9119
  • alpha-MSH
  • Morphine
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones