Nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) is the endogenous peptide for the NOP receptors. Depending on the doses, intrathecal administration of N/OFQ has dual actions (ie, hyperalgesia and antinociception) in rodents. However, the pharmacological profile of intrathecal N/OFQ is not fully known in primates. The aim of this study was to investigate behavioral effects of intrathecal N/OFQ over a wide dose range and to compare its effects with ligands known to produce hyperalgesia or antinociception in monkeys. Intrathecal N/OFQ from 1 fmol to 1 nmol did not produce any hyperalgesic or scratching responses. In contrast, intrathecal substance P 100 nmol produced hyperalgesia, and intrathecal DAMGO 10 nmol produced antinociception. At the dose range between 10 nmol and 1 micromol, intrathecal N/OFQ dose-dependently produced thermal antinociception against a noxious stimulus in 2 intensities. More importantly, N/OFQ in combined with intrathecal morphine dose-dependently potentiated morphine-induced antinociception without inhibiting morphine-induced itch/scratching. Taken together, this study is the first to provide a unique functional profile of intrathecal N/OFQ over a wide dose range in primates. Intrathecal N/OFQ produces thermal antinociception without anti-morphine actions or scratching responses, indicating that N/OFQ or NOP receptor agonists represent a promising target as spinal analgesics.
Perspective: Intrathecal administration of N/OFQ only produced thermal antinociception, not hyperalgesia, in monkeys. In addition, intrathecal N/OFQ does not have anti-morphine actions or itch/scratching responses. This study strongly supports the therapeutic potential of N/OFQ or NOP receptor agonists as spinal analgesics for clinical trials.