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Mol Pharmacol. 2009 Apr;75(4):744-50. doi: 10.1124/mol.108.053462. Epub 2009 Jan 14.

Long-term morphine treatment decreases the association of mu-opioid receptor (MOR1) mRNA with polysomes through miRNA23b.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Minnesota Medical School, 6-120 Jackson Hall, 321 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Mu-opioid receptor (MOR) mediates most of the pharmacological effects of opioid drugs. The expression of MOR is temporarily and spatially regulated at both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. Long-term morphine treatment that induces tolerance does not alter MOR mRNA expression, suggesting no direct link between agonist treatment and MOR gene transcription. We previously identified the 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) of the major transcript of mu-opioid receptor (MOR1) and revealed a novel trans-acting factor, miRNA23b, that binds to the K box motif in the 3'-UTR. The interaction between miRNA23b with the MOR1 3'-UTR suppressed receptor translation by inhibiting polysome-mRNA association. In this report, we demonstrate that long-term morphine treatment increases miRNA23b expression in a dose- and time-dependent manner and represses the association of MOR1 mRNA with polysomes through the MOR1 3'-UTR. The translational luciferase reporter assay shows a suppression effect of morphine on reporter activity that requires the MOR1 3'-UTR. This suggests a potential link between MOR expression and morphine treatment at the post-transcriptional level in which a specific miRNA, miRNA23b, is involved.

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