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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Feb 22;102(8):3034-9. Epub 2005 Feb 17.

beta-Arrestin2, interacting with phosphodiesterase 4, regulates synaptic release probability and presynaptic inhibition by opioids.

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  • 1Department of Basic Neurosciences, University of Geneva, CH 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.


Most mu-opioid receptor agonists recruit beta-arrestin2, with some exceptions such as morphine. Surprisingly, however, the acute analgesic effect of morphine is enhanced in the absence of beta-arrestin2. To resolve this paradox, we examined the effects of morphine and fentanyl in acute brain slices of the locus coeruleus and the periaqueductal gray from beta-arrestin2 knockout mice. We report that, in these mice, presynaptic inhibition of evoked inhibitory postsynaptic currents was enhanced, whereas postsynaptic G protein-coupled K(+) (Kir3/GIRK) currents were unaffected. The frequency, but not amplitude, of miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents was increased in beta-arrestin2 knockout mice, indicating a higher release probability compared to WT mice. The increased release probability resulted from increased cAMP levels because of impaired phosphodiesterase 4 function and conferred an enhanced efficacy of morphine to inhibit GABA release. Thus, beta-arrestin2 attenuates presynaptic inhibition by opioids independent of mu-opioid receptor-driven recruitment, which may make beta-arrestin2 a promising target for regulating analgesia.

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