Background and purpose: Among several pharmacological properties, analgesia is the most common feature shared by either opioid or cannabinoid systems. Cannabinoids and opioids are distinct drug classes that have been historically used separately or in combination to treat different pain states. In the present study, we characterized the signal transduction pathways mediated by cannabinoid CB(2) and µ-opioid receptors in quiescent and LPS-stimulated murine microglial cells.
Experimental approach: We examined the effects of µ-opioid and CB(2) receptor stimulation on phosphorylation of MAPKs and Akt and on IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-6 and NO production in primary mouse microglial cells.
Key results: Morphine enhanced release of the proinflammatory cytokines, IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-6, and of NO via µ-opioid receptor in activated microglial cells. In contrast, CB(2) receptor stimulation attenuated morphine-induced microglial proinflammatory mediator increases, interfering with morphine action by acting on the Akt-ERK1/2 signalling pathway.
Conclusions and implications: Because glial activation opposes opioid analgesia and enhances opioid tolerance and dependence, we suggest that CB(2) receptors, by inhibiting microglial activity, may be potential targets to increase clinical efficacy of opioids.
© 2012 The Authors. British Journal of Pharmacology © 2012 The British Pharmacological Society.