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Neuropharmacology. 1999 Mar;38(3):425-32.

Gastric effects of methylnaltrexone on mu, kappa, and delta opioid agonists induced brainstem unitary responses.

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Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, The Pritzker School of Medicine, The University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


In this study, we evaluated the gastric effects of methylnaltrexone, an opioid receptor antagonist that does not cross the blood-brain barrier in vivo, on mu, kappa and delta opioid agonists induced brainstem unitary responses in an in vitro neonatal rat brainstem-gastric preparation. Single units in the medial subnucleus of the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS), responding to electrical stimulation of subdiaphragmatic vagal fibers, were recorded. Selective opioid receptor agonists and antagonists were applied only to the gastric compartment of the bath chamber and thus, the brainstem functions of the preparation were not affected by the drugs. The peripheral gastric effects of a mu opioid receptor agonist, DAMGO, and a kappa opioid receptor agonist, U-50,488H, were evaluated on 58 tonic units that received the subdiaphragmatic vagal inputs. For approximately 78% of the units observed, DAMGO (1.0 microM) and U-50,488H (1.0 microM) induced a concentration-dependent inhibition of 62.1+/-9.3% (mean +/- SE) and 49.2+/-6.5% of the control level of the NTS neuronal activity, respectively. Methylnaltrexone competitively antagonized the DAMGO-induced brainstem neuronal effects. Methylnaltrexone at an 18.8-fold higher concentration also reversed U-50,488H-induced NTS neuronal responses. Naloxone, a non-selective opioid receptor antagonist, reversed the inhibitory effects of DAMGO and U-50,488H at much lower concentrations (3.8% and 0.5%, respectively) compared to methylnaltrexone. Only 18% of the NTS neurons evaluated showed inhibitory responses to a delta receptor agonist, DPDPE, (19.7+/-5.0% at 10 microM), and this inhibition could not be reversed by methylnaltrexone in the concentration range we tested. In addition, when methylnaltrexone (1.0 microM) alone was applied to the gastric compartment, there was an activation (8.5+/-2.1%) of the NTS neurons receiving subdiaphragmatic vagal inputs, suggesting an endogenous gastric opioid action in the modulation of brainstem neuronal activities.

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