Modulation of neuronal CXCR4 by the micro-opioid agonist DAMGO

J Neurovirol. 2006 Dec;12(6):492-500. doi: 10.1080/13550280601064798.


The chemokine receptor CXCR4 regulates neuronal survival and differentiation and is involved in a number of pathologies, including cancer and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Recent data suggest that chemokines act in concert with neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, such as opioids. This study aimed to determine whether mu-opioid agonists alter the effect of CXCL12 (the specific CXCR4 ligand) on central neurons. Neuronal expression of CXCR4 and micro-opioid receptors (MORs) was analyzed by Western blot, immunostaining, and flow cytometry. Single-cell studies showed that all CXCR4-positive neurons coexpress MORs. Treatment of neuronal cultures with the selective MOR agonist DAMGO or the endogenous peptide endomorphin-1 inhibited intracellular signaling pathways (ERK1/2 and Akt) activated by CXCL12. Furthermore, DAMGO abolished the neuroprotective effect of CXCL12 in N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) neurotoxicity studies. The effects of DAMGO and endomorphin-1 were inhibited by a general or a micro-specific opioid receptor antagonist, and not caused by changes in neuronal CXCR4 levels. DAMGO did not affect CXCL12-induced internalization of CXCR4. The authors propose that interactions between MOR and CXCR4 signaling can modulate the action of CXCL12 on neuronal survival-which may have important implications to neuroAIDS as well as other neuroinflammatory disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Chemokines, CXC / metabolism
  • Enkephalin, Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly(5)- / pharmacology*
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / drug effects
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oligopeptides / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / drug effects
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptor Cross-Talk / drug effects
  • Receptor Cross-Talk / physiology
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / drug effects
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / drug effects
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / metabolism*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • CXCL12 protein, human
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Chemokines, CXC
  • Cxcr4 protein, rat
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Oligopeptides
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • endomorphin 1
  • Enkephalin, Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly(5)-
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases