Morphine-induced osteolysis and hypersensitivity is mediated through toll-like receptor-4 in a murine model of metastatic breast cancer

Pain. 2023 Nov 1;164(11):2463-2476. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002953. Epub 2023 Jun 15.


The propensity for breast cancer to metastasize to bone is coupled to the most common complaint among breast cancer patients: bone pain. Classically, this type of pain is treated using escalating doses of opioids, which lack long-term efficacy due to analgesic tolerance, opioid-induced hypersensitivity, and have recently been linked to enhanced bone loss. To date, the molecular mechanisms underlying these adverse effects have not been fully explored. Using an immunocompetent murine model of metastatic breast cancer, we demonstrated that sustained morphine infusion induced a significant increase in osteolysis and hypersensitivity within the ipsilateral femur through the activation of toll-like receptor-4 (TLR4). Pharmacological blockade with TAK242 (resatorvid) as well as the use of a TLR4 genetic knockout ameliorated the chronic morphine-induced osteolysis and hypersensitivity. Genetic MOR knockout did not mitigate chronic morphine hypersensitivity or bone loss. In vitro studies using RAW264.7 murine macrophages precursor cells demonstrated morphine-enhanced osteoclastogenesis that was inhibited by the TLR4 antagonist. Together, these data indicate that morphine induces osteolysis and hypersensitivity that are mediated, in part, through a TLR4 receptor mechanism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Morphine / pharmacology
  • Osteolysis* / chemically induced
  • Osteolysis* / drug therapy
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / genetics


  • Morphine
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Analgesics, Opioid