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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2002 Jul;302(1):188-96.

Profound spinal tolerance after repeated exposure to a highly selective mu-opioid peptide agonist: role of delta-opioid receptors.

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Department of Pharmacology, Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University, 1300 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Recent studies suggest that delta-opioid receptors play a role in the development of opioid tolerance and led us to hypothesize that highly selective mu-opioid agonists may produce less tolerance. H-2',6'-dimethyltyrosine-D-Arg-Phe-Lys-NH(2) ([Dmt(1)]DALDA) has extraordinary selectivity for mu-receptors (K(i)(delta)/K(i)(mu) > 14,000). Daily administration of [Dmt(1)]DALDA (5 times ED(50); s.c.) for 7 days increased ED(50) 3.6-fold from 0.16 to 0.58 micromol/kg. A higher dose of [Dmt(1)]DALDA (10 times ED(50), every 12 h) for 2.5 days resulted in a 11.7 times increase in the ED(50) (1.9 micromol/kg). Complete cross-tolerance to morphine was observed, with a 3.4- and 15.1-fold shift in the morphine ED(50), respectively. We also compared the extent of spinal versus supraspinal tolerance after repeated s.c. [Dmt(1)]DALDA administration. Five doses of [Dmt(1)]DALDA (10 times ED(50), every 12 h) resulted in a 3.4 times shift in the i.c.v. ED(50) (15.4 versus 4.6 pmol/mouse) but a 44 times shift in the i.t. ED(50) (52.9 versus 1.2 pmol/mouse). Tolerance to [Dmt(1)]DALDA was associated with 30 to 35% reduction in [(3)H][Dmt(1)]DALDA binding in brain and spinal cord. Coadministration of [Dmt(1)]DALDA with delta-antagonist naltriben (NTB) reduced spinal tolerance by 50%. Even after spinal tolerance had been established, addition of a delta-antagonist (NTB or H-Tyr-TicPsi[CH(2)NH]Phe-Phe-OH) significantly enhanced the potency of i.t. [Dmt(1)]DALDA 2- to 4-fold. These results suggest that agonist activation of delta-receptors is not necessary for the development of opioid tolerance; however, delta-receptors play a modulatory role in the maintenance of the tolerant state.

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