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Neuroscience. 1996 Dec;75(3):917-26.

Opposite role of delta 1- and delta 2-opioid receptors activated by endogenous or exogenous opioid agonists on the endogenous cholecystokinin system: further evidence for delta-opioid receptor heterogeneity.

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  • 1Department de Pharmacochimie Moléculaire et Structurale, INSERM U266, CNRS URA D 1500, Université René Descartes, UFR des Sciences Pharmaceutiques et Biologiques, Paris, France.


Using the mouse caudate-putamen, where delta-opioid receptor subtypes have been shown to regulate adenylyl cyclase activity, we show in this study that endogenous enkephalins inhibit enzyme activity through activation of delta 1- and delta 2-opioid receptors. Thus, naltriben or 7-benzylidenenaltrexone as well as the delta-selective antagonist naltrindole (mixed delta 1 and delta 2 antagonist) antagonized inhibition of adenylyl cyclase activity induced by methionine- or leucine-enkephalin, while the micro-antagonist D-Phe-Cys-Tyr-D-Trp-Orn-Thr-Pen-Thr-NH2 (CTOP) was without effect. Furthermore, we have previously shown that activation of delta-opioid receptors increases cholecystokinin release in the central nervous system, resulting in a potentiation of micro-opioid antinociceptive responses, and the respective role of delta 1- and delta 2-opioid receptors in this facilitatory effect has now been evaluated. Activation of delta 2-opioid receptors, either by endogenous enkephalins protected from catabolism by the complete enkephalin-degrading enzyme inhibitor N-((R,S)-2-benzyl-3((S)(2-amino-4-methyl-thio) butyldithio)-1-oxopropyl)-L-phenyl-alanine benzyl ester (RB 101), or by the delta 2-selective agonist Tyr-D-Ser(O-tert-butyl)-Gly-Phe-Leu-Thr(O-tert-butyl) (BUBU), potentiated micro-opioid antinociceptive responses in the hot-plate test in mice. This effect was antagonized by a selective cholecystokinin-A antagonist. Activation of delta 1-opioid receptors by endogenous opioid peptides decreased the micro-opioid responses. These results suggest that stimulation of delta 2-opioid receptors potentiates micro-opioid analgesia in the hot-plate test in mice through an increase in endogenous cholecystokinin release, while activation of delta 1-opioid receptors could decrease it. Thus, the pre-existing physiological balance between opioid and cholecystokinin systems seems to be modulated in opposite directions depending on whether delta 1- or delta 2-opioid receptors are selectively activated. This is the first demonstration that endogenous enkephalins, methionine- and leucine-enkephalin, are the natural ligands of delta-opioid receptor subtypes, and that delta 2-opioid receptor activation may facilitate the endogenous cholecystokinin-related modulation of micro-opioid analgesia, while the delta 1-opioid receptors may have an inhibitory role. These results could have important applications for the characterization of opioid delta 1 and delta 2 as subtypes or subsites and in pain alleviation.

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