Immediate and Persistent Effects of Salvinorin A on the Kappa Opioid Receptor in Rodents, Monitored In Vivo with PET

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Dec;40(13):2865-72. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.159. Epub 2015 Jun 10.


Monitoring changes in opioid receptor binding with positron emission tomography (PET) could lead to a better understanding of tolerance and addiction because altered opioid receptor dynamics following agonist exposure has been linked to tolerance mechanisms. We have studied changes in kappa opioid receptor (KOR) binding availability in vivo with PET following kappa opioid agonist administration. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (n=31) were anesthetized and treated with the (KOR) agonist salvinorin A (0.01-1.8 mg/kg, i.v.) before administration of the KOR selective radiotracer [(11)C]GR103545. When salvinorin A was administered 1 min prior to injection of the radiotracer, [(11)C]GR103545 binding potential (BPND) was decreased in a dose-dependent manner, indicating receptor binding competition. In addition, the unique pharmacokinetics of salvinorin A (half-life ~8 min in non-human primates) allowed us to study the residual impact on KOR after the drug had eliminated from the brain. Salvinorin A was administered up to 5 h prior to [(11)C]GR103545, and the changes in BPND were compared with baseline, 2.5 h, 1 h, and 1 min pretreatment times. At lower doses (0.18 mg/kg and 0.32 mg/kg) we observed no prolonged effect on KOR binding but at 0.60 mg/kg salvinorin A induced a sustained decrease in KOR binding (BPND decreased by 40-49%) which persisted up to 2.5 h post administration, long after salvinorin A had been eliminated from the brain. These data point towards an agonist-induced adaptive response by KOR, the dynamics of which have not been previously studied in vivo with PET.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacokinetics
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Diterpenes, Clerodane / pharmacokinetics
  • Diterpenes, Clerodane / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Male
  • Piperazines
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Pyrrolidines
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / agonists*
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / metabolism*
  • Time


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Diterpenes, Clerodane
  • Piperazines
  • Pyrrolidines
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa
  • GR 89696
  • salvinorin A