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J Neurochem. 2001 Apr;77(2):435-44.

G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 mediates mu-opioid receptor desensitization in GABAergic neurons of the nucleus raphe magnus.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan, China Department of Physiology, Chang Gung University School of Medicine, Kwei-San, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan, China.


Nucleus raphe magnus (NRM) sends the projection to spinal dorsal horn and inhibits nociceptive transmission. Analgesic effect produced by mu-opioid receptor agonists including morphine partially results from activating the NRM-spinal cord pathway. It is generally believed that mu-opioid receptor agonists disinhibit spinally projecting neurons of the NRM and produce analgesia by hyperpolarizing GABAergic interneurons. In the present study, whole-cell patch-clamp recordings combined with single-cell RT-PCR analysis were used to test the hypothesis that DAMGO ([D-Ala(2),N-methyl-Phe(4),Gly-ol(5)]enkephalin), a specific mu-opioid receptor agonist, selectively hyperpolarizes NRM neurons expressing mRNA of glutamate decarboxylase (GAD(67)). Homologous desensitization of mu-opioid receptors in NRM neurons could result in the development of morphine-induced tolerance. G protein-coupled receptor kinase (GRK) is believed to mediate mu-opioid receptor desensitization in vivo. Therefore, we also investigated the involvement of GRK in mediating homologous desensitization of DAMAMGO-induced electrophysiological effects on NRM neurons by using two experimental strategies. First, single-cell RT-PCR assay was used to study the expression of GRK2 and GRK3 mRNAs in individual DAMGO-responsive NRM neurons. Whole-cell recording was also performed with an internal solution containing the synthetic peptide, which corresponds to G(betagamma)-binding domain of GRK and inhibits G(betagamma) activation of GRK. Our results suggest that DAMGO selectively hyperpolarizes NRM GABAergic neurons by opening inwardly rectifying K(+) channels and that GRK2 mediates short-term homologous desensitization of mu-opioid receptors in NRM GABAergic neurons.

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