Morphine is an opioid drug often used in treating moderate to severe pain. However, morphine tolerance in patients limits its used in clinical settings. Our previous study showed that a cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptor agonist attenuated morphine tolerance. However, the exact mechanism by which CB2 agonists reduce morphine tolerance remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the effect of mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) and mitogen activated protein kinase phosphatases 1 and 3 (MKP-1 and MKP-3) on the regulation of morphine tolerance by CB2 receptor agonist. Chronic morphine treatments for 7 days reduced the protein expression of MKP-1 and MKP-3 in the spinal cord and increased the phosphorylation of p38, ERK1/2 and the level of proinflammatory mediator, such as IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α. Coadministration of CB2 receptor agonist AM1241 alleviated the inhibition of MKP-1 and MKP-3 by chronic morphine administration and reduced the expression of phosphorylated MAPK and proinflammatory factors. The effect of the CB2 receptor agonist on morphine-induced downregulation of MKP-1 and MKP-3 was reversed by the MKP-1 and MKP-3 antagonist triptolide. Our findings suggested that CB2 receptor agonist may induce the expression of MKP-1 and MKP-3 to promote MAPK dephosphorylation and reduce the production of downstream cytokine, thereby reducing morphine tolerance. This finding suggested that MKPs may serve as a new target for alleviating morphine tolerance.
Keywords: MKP1/3; cannabinoid type 2 receptor; morphine tolerance; proinflammatory cytokine.
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