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Eur J Pharmacol. 2004 Feb 23;486(3):259-64.

Estrous cycle stage-dependent expression of acute tolerance to morphine analgesia in rats.

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  • 1Laboratory of Behavioural Pharmacology, Institute of Pharmacology, Pavlov Medical University, 6/8 Leo Tolstoy St, 197089 St. Petersburg, Russia.


Both baseline pain sensitivity and the response to antinociceptive treatment are sensitive to an animal's sex and estrous cycle stage. Sex differences are also observed in the development of antinociceptive tolerance induced by repetitive exposure to opiate drugs such as morphine. Conventional tolerance study protocols do not assess the impact of the estrous cycle stage. The present study aimed to compare the development of acute tolerance to morphine-induced antinociception in male and female (cycling and ovariectomized) Wistar rats using the tail-flick test. Acute tolerance was induced by two consecutive subcutaneous injections of morphine (10 mg/kg) or saline separated by an interval of 6 h. It was found that rats pretreated with morphine were tolerant to the second morphine dose. Tolerance was most pronounced in proestrous female rats and, to a lesser degree, in male rats. It was absent in ovariectomized rats as well as during the estrus, metestrus and diestrus phases. Thus, the estrous cycle exerts dramatic effects on the induction of acute tolerance to morphine-induced antinociception. These results suggest that pain management strategies can be optimized through the use of sex- and estrous cycle-specific techniques.

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