The heritability of antinociception: common pharmacogenetic mediation of five neurochemically distinct analgesics

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2003 Feb;304(2):547-59. doi: 10.1124/jpet.102.041889.


The heritability of nociception and antinociception has been well established in the mouse. The pharmacogenetics of morphine analgesia are fairly well characterized, but far less is known about other analgesics. The purpose of this work was to begin the systematic genetic study of non-mu-opioid analgesics. We tested mice of 12 inbred mouse strains for baseline nociceptive sensitivity (49 degrees C tail-withdrawal assay) and subsequent antinociceptive sensitivity to systemic administration of (trans)-3,4-dichloro-N-methyl-N-[2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-cyclohexyl]benzeneacetamide methane-sulfonate hydrate (U50,488; 10-150 mg/kg), a kappa-opioid receptor agonist; (R)-(+)-[2,3-dihydro-5-methyl-3-(4-morpholinylmethyl)pyrrolo[1,2,3-de]-1,4-benzoxazin-6-yl]-1-naphthalenylmethanone (WIN55,212-2; 0.5-480 mg/kg), a synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist; epibatidine (7.5-150 microg/kg), a nicotinic receptor agonist; clonidine (0.1-5 mg/kg), an alpha(2)-adrenergic receptor agonist; and, for purposes of comparison, the prototypic mu-opioid receptor agonist, morphine (5-200 mg/kg). Robust interstrain variability was observed in nociceptive sensitivity and in the antinociceptive effects of each of the drugs, with extreme-responding strains exhibiting antinociceptive potencies differing up to 37-fold. Unexpectedly, we observed moderate-to-high genetic correlations of strain sensitivities to the five drugs (r = 0.39-0.77). We also found moderate-to-high correlations between baseline nociceptive sensitivity and subsequent analgesic response to each drug (r = 0.33-0.68). The generalizability of these findings was established in follow-up experiments investigating morphine and clonidine inhibition of formalin test nociception. Despite the fact that each drug activates a unique receptor, our results suggest that the potency of each drug is affected by a common set of genes. However, the genes in question may affect antinociception indirectly, via a primary action on baseline nociceptive sensitivity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / chemistry
  • Analgesics / pharmacology*
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred A
  • Mice, Inbred AKR
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / genetics*
  • Pain Measurement / drug effects*
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Species Specificity


  • Analgesics