Effects of mu- and kappa-2 opioid receptor agonists on pain and rearing behaviors

Behav Brain Funct. 2007 Sep 20;3:49. doi: 10.1186/1744-9081-3-49.


Background: Management of pain involves a balance between inhibition of pain and minimization of side effects; therefore, in developing new analgesic compounds, one must consider the effects of treatment on both pain processing and behavior. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of the mu and kappa-2 opioid receptor agonists on general and pain behavioral outcomes.

Methods: As a general behavioral assessment, we modified the cylinder rearing assay and recorded the number and duration of rearing events. Thermal sensitivity was evaluated using either a reflexive measure of hindpaw withdrawal latency to a radiant heat source or using an orofacial operant thermal assay. Acetic acid-induced visceral pain and capsaicin-induced neurogenic inflammatory pain were used as painful stimuli. The mu-opioid receptor agonist, morphine or the kappa-2 receptor agonist GR89696 was administered 30 min prior to testing. A general linear model repeated measures analysis was completed for baseline session comparisons and an analysis of variance was used to evaluate the effects of treatment on each outcome measure (SPSS Inc). When significant differences were found, post-hoc comparisons were made using the Tukey honestly significant difference test. *P < 0.05 was considered significant in all instances.

Results: We found that morphine and GR89,696 dose-dependently decreased the number of reaching events and rearing duration. Rearing behavior was not affected at 0.5 mg/kg for morphine, 1.25 x 10-4 mg/kg for GR89,696. Hindpaw thermal sensitivity was significantly increased only at the highest doses for each drug. At the highest dose that did not significantly influence rearing behavior, we found that visceral and neurogenic inflammatory pain was not affected following GR89,696 administration and morphine was only partially effective for blocking visceral pain.

Conclusion: This study demonstrated that high levels of the opioids produced significant untoward effects and made distinguishing an analgesic versus a more general effect more difficult. Quantification of rearing behavior in conjunction with standard analgesic assays can help in gaining a better appreciation of true analgesic efficacy of experimental drugs.