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J Immunol. 2001 Dec 1;167(11):6609-14.

The endogenous opioid spinorphin blocks fMet-Leu-Phe-induced neutrophil chemotaxis by acting as a specific antagonist at the N-formylpeptide receptor subtype FPR.

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  • 1Laboratory of Host Defenses, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Spinorphin is an endogenous heptapeptide (leucylvalylvalyltyrosylprolyltryptophylthreonine), first isolated from bovine spinal cord, whose sequence matches a conserved region of beta-hemoglobin. Also referred to as LVV-hemorphin-4 and a member of the nonclassical opioid hemorphin family, spinorphin inhibits enkephalin-degrading enzymes and is analgesic. Recently, spinorphin was reported to block neutrophil activation induced by the chemotactic N-formylpeptide N-formylmethionylleucylphenylalanine (fMLF), suggesting a potential role as an endogenous negative regulator of inflammation. Here we use both gain- and loss-of-function genetic tests to identify the specific mechanism of spinorphin action on neutrophils. Spinorphin induced calcium flux in normal mouse neutrophils, but was inactive in neutrophils from mice genetically deficient in the fMLF receptor subtype FPR (N-formylpeptide receptor). Consistent with this, spinorphin induced calcium flux in human embryonic kidney 293 cells transfected with mouse FPR, but had no effect on cells expressing the closely related fMLF receptor subtype FPR2. Despite acting as a calcium-mobilizing agonist at FPR, spinorphin was a weak chemotactic agonist and effectively blocked neutrophil chemotaxis induced by fMLF at concentrations selective for FPR. Spinorphin did not affect mouse neutrophil chemotaxis induced by concentrations of fMLF that selectively activate FPR2. Thus, spinorphin blocks fMLF-induced neutrophil chemotaxis by acting as a specific antagonist at the fMLF receptor subtype FPR.

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