Background and purpose: Tricyclic antidepressants are used clinically as first-line treatments for neuropathic pain. Opioid receptors participate in this pain-relieving action, and preclinical studies in receptor-deficient mice have highlighted a critical role for δ-, but not μ-opioid receptors. In this study, we investigated whether κ-opioid (KOP) receptors have a role in the antiallodynic action of tricyclic antidepressants.
Experimental approach: We used a model of neuropathic pain induced by unilateral sciatic nerve cuffing. In this model, the mechanical allodynia was evaluated using von Frey filaments. Experiments were conducted in C57BL/6J mice, and in KOP receptor-deficient mice and their wild-type littermates. The tricyclic antidepressant nortriptyline (5 mg · kg(-1)) was delivered twice a day for over 2 weeks. Agonists and antagonists of opioid receptors were used to test the selectivity of the KOP receptor antagonist norbinaltorphimine (nor-BNI) in mice with neuropathic pain.
Key results: After 12 days of treatment, nortriptyline relieved neuropathic allodynia in both wild-type and KOP receptor-deficient mice. Surprisingly, acute nor-BNI reversed the effect of nortriptyline in both wild-type and KOP receptor-deficient mice. Further experiments showed that nor-BNI action was selective for KOP receptors at a late time-point after its administration (8 h), but not at an early time-point, when it may also interact with δ-opioid (DOP) receptors.
Conclusions and implications: KOP receptors are not necessary for the effect of a tricyclic antidepressant against neuropathic allodynia. These findings together with previous data indicate that the DOP receptor is the only opioid receptor that is necessary for the antiallodynic action of antidepressants.
© 2014 The British Pharmacological Society.