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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2007 Apr;191(2):273-85. Epub 2007 Jan 16.

Sex differences in the potency of kappa opioids and mixed-action opioids administered systemically and at the site of inflammation against capsaicin-induced hyperalgesia in rats.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3270, USA.



Sex differences in the potency of the antinociceptive effects of kappa opioids have been reported in various acute pain models with evidence suggesting that these sex differences are mediated by activity in the N-methyl-D: -aspartate (NMDA) system.


The purpose of the present study was to evaluate sex differences in the antihyperalgesic actions of selected kappa and mixed-action opioids in a persistent pain model and determine if the NMDA system modulates these effects in a sexually dimorphic manner.


Using gonadally intact male and female F344 rats, hyperalgesia was induced by local administration of capsaicin in the tail, after which the tail was immersed in a mildly noxious thermal stimulus (45 degrees C water), and tail-withdrawal latency measured. Opioids were then administered systemically (s.c.) and locally (in the tail) alone, and in selected combinations with the noncompetitive NMDA antagonist dextromethorphan.


When administered systemically and locally, the kappa opioids spiradoline, U69,593 and U50,488, and the mixed-action opioids butorphanol and nalbuphine, produced dose-dependent antihyperalgesic effects. Whereas the kappa opioids were generally more potent in males, sex differences were not observed with the mixed-action opioids. Peripheral receptor activity was confirmed for local administration of kappa opioids by the antagonism observed after local, but not intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.), administration of the kappa antagonist nor-binaltorphamine (nor-BNI). Dextromethorphan was equally potent in attenuating the antihyperalgesia induced by kappa opioids in both males and females.


These findings demonstrate sex differences in kappa opioid activity in a persistent pain model. Although an NMDA antagonist blocked the effects of kappa opioids in this model, these effects were not sexually dimorphic as reported in most acute pain models.

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