Morphine-induced hyperalgesia involves mu opioid receptors and the metabolite morphine-3-glucuronide

Sci Rep. 2017 Sep 4;7(1):10406. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-11120-4.


Opiates are potent analgesics but their clinical use is limited by side effects including analgesic tolerance and opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). The Opiates produce analgesia and other adverse effects through activation of the mu opioid receptor (MOR) encoded by the Oprm1 gene. However, MOR and morphine metabolism involvement in OIH have been little explored. Hence, we examined MOR contribution to OIH by comparing morphine-induced hyperalgesia in wild type (WT) and MOR knockout (KO) mice. We found that repeated morphine administration led to analgesic tolerance and hyperalgesia in WT mice but not in MOR KO mice. The absence of OIH in MOR KO mice was found in both sexes, in two KO global mutant lines, and for mechanical, heat and cold pain modalities. In addition, the morphine metabolite morphine-3beta-D-glucuronide (M3G) elicited hyperalgesia in WT but not in MOR KO animals, as well as in both MOR flox and MOR-Nav1.8 sensory neuron conditional KO mice. M3G displayed significant binding to MOR and G-protein activation when using membranes from MOR-transfected cells or WT mice but not from MOR KO mice. Collectively our results show that MOR is involved in hyperalgesia induced by chronic morphine and its metabolite M3G.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Hyperalgesia / chemically induced*
  • Hyperalgesia / genetics
  • Hyperalgesia / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Morphine / adverse effects
  • Morphine / pharmacology
  • Morphine Derivatives / adverse effects*
  • Morphine Derivatives / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / genetics*
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / metabolism*


  • Morphine Derivatives
  • Oprm protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • Morphine
  • morphine-3-glucuronide