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, 297 (1-2), 27-33

Effects of NMDA Receptor Antagonists on Inhibition of Morphine Tolerance in Rats: Binding at Mu-Opioid Receptors


Effects of NMDA Receptor Antagonists on Inhibition of Morphine Tolerance in Rats: Binding at Mu-Opioid Receptors

C S Wong et al. Eur J Pharmacol.


Past studies have shown antagonists of excitatory amino acid receptors, both N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA, to produce an antinociceptive effect in vitro and in vivo. Additionally, NMDA receptor antagonists have been demonstrated to prevent morphine tolerance. We had found that one NMDA receptor antagonist, ketamine, potentiates morphine's analgesic effect in post-operative patients. Our latest experiment was performed to examine the modulatory effect of competitive and non-competitive NMDA receptor antagonists on morphine antinociception and tolerance. A PE10 catheter was intrathecally (i.t.) implanted in male Sprague-Dawley rats for drug administration. The antinociceptive effect of morphine, D-(-)-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (D-AP5) and (+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,d] cyclohepten-5,10-imine maleate (MK-801) was measured using the hot-water tail immersion test. Neither competitive nor non-competitive NMDA receptor antagonists had an antinociceptive effect by themselves, but they did potentiate the antinociceptive effect of morphine. Both D-AP5 (AD50 = 0.18 micrograms) and MK-801 (AD50 = 0.57 micrograms) shifted the antinociceptive dose-response curve of morphine (AD50 = 4.2 micrograms) to the left. Both D-AP5 (4 micrograms/h) and MK-801 (10 micrograms/h) when co-administered with i.t. morphine infusions (10 micrograms/h) also inhibited the development of tolerance. In [3H][D-Ala2,N-Me-Phe4,Gly5-ol]enkephalin ([3H]DAMGO) binding assays, MK-801 (Bmax = 32.90 +/- 3.33 fmol/mg) treatment prevented the down-regulation of mu-opioid receptor high-affinity sites induced by continuous morphine infusions alone (Bmax = 13.97 +/- 1.47 fmol/mg). D-AP5 (Bmax = 20.78 +/- 3.36 fmol/mg) did not prevent the reduction of mu-opioid receptor high-affinity sites. However, high-affinity sites in rats treated with D-AP5 and morphine displayed a higher affinity (KD = 0.45 +/- 0.09 nM) than those of control animals (KD = 0.95 +/- 0.08 nM). Results of this study indicate that competitive as well as non-competitive NMDA receptor antagonists enhance morphine's antinociceptive effect, and prevent the development of morphine tolerance. Thus, in our opinion, there opens a new frontier in clinical pain management, especially for those patients who require long-term opioid treatment for pain relief.

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