Opioids are powerful analgesics, but also carry significant side effects and abuse potential. Here we describe a modulator of the μ-opioid receptor (MOR1), the transient receptor potential channel subfamily vanilloid member 1 (TRPV1). We show that TRPV1 binds MOR1 and blocks opioid-dependent phosphorylation of MOR1 while leaving G protein signaling intact. Phosphorylation of MOR1 initiates recruitment and activation of the β-arrestin pathway, which is responsible for numerous opioid-induced adverse effects, including the development of tolerance and respiratory depression. Phosphorylation stands in contrast to G protein signaling, which is responsible for the analgesic effect of opioids. Calcium influx through TRPV1 causes a calcium/calmodulin-dependent translocation of G protein-coupled receptor kinase 5 (GRK5) away from the plasma membrane, thereby blocking its ability to phosphorylate MOR1. Using TRPV1 to block phosphorylation of MOR1 without affecting G protein signaling is a potential strategy to improve the therapeutic profile of opioids.
Keywords: G protein-coupled receptor kinase 5; G protein-coupled receptors; opiates; transient receptor potential vanilloid 1; μ-opioid receptor.