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Brain Res. 1996 Dec 16;743(1-2):341-5.

mu-Opioid receptor activation enhances DNA synthesis in immature oligodendrocytes.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington 40536-0084, USA.


Opioids disrupt nervous system development by inhibiting the proliferation of neuronal and glial progenitors. These studies explored the hypothesis that mu opioid receptors are expressed by immature oligodendrocytes (OLs) and are functionally related to growth. Antibodies identifying the cloned mu opioid receptor demonstrated that cultured OLs expressed mu opioid receptor immunoreactivity very early during development. Cultures were treated with the selective mu opioid receptor agonist H-Tyr-Pro-Phe (N-Me)-D-Pro-NH2 (PL017; 1 microM), or PL017 (1 microM) plus the antagonist naloxone (3 microM). Opioid-dependent changes in DNA synthesis were assessed by determining the proportion of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU)-labeled O4-immunoreactive OLs. Treatment with PL017 caused a 311% increase in the proportion of O4-immunoreactive OLs incorporating BrdU compared to untreated controls, and these effects were prevented by co-administering naloxone. These preliminary results indicate that (i) immature OLs express mu opioid receptors and that (ii) the activation of this receptor type is functionally coupled to DNA synthesis and the cell division cycle. The expression of opioid receptors by OLs suggests that the endogenous opioid system is widely distributed among glial types.

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