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Synapse. 2003 Jan;47(1):1-9.

Opioid peptide receptor studies. 16. Chronic morphine alters G-protein function in cells expressing the cloned mu opioid receptor.

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Clinical Psychopharmacology Section, Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA.


Chronic morphine treatment results in functional uncoupling of the mu opioid receptor and its G protein in both cell culture and animal models. In the present study, Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells stably expressing the cloned human mu opioid receptor (hMOR-CHO cells) were incubated with 1 microM of morphine (or no drug) for 20 h. Subsequently, we assessed DAMGO- and morphine-stimulated [(35)S]-GTP-gamma-S binding and agonist-mediated inhibition of forskolin-stimulated cAMP accumulation. Using a single concentration of [(35)S]-GTP-gamma-S (0.05 nM), chronic morphine treatment did not significantly change basal [(35)S]-GTP-gamma-S binding, shifted the morphine EC(50) from 59 nM to 146 nM, and decreased the maximal stimulation (E(max)) from 201% to 177%. Similar results were observed with DAMGO. Binding surface analysis resolved two [(35)S]-GTP-gamma-S binding sites (high-affinity and low-affinity sites). In control cells, morphine stimulated [(35)S]-GTP-gamma-S binding by increasing the B(max) of the high-affinity site. In morphine-treated cells, morphine stimulated [(35)S]-GTP-gamma-S binding by decreasing the high-affinity K(d) without changing the B(max). Morphine treatment increased the EC(50) (5-11-fold) for agonist-mediated inhibition of forskolin-stimulated cAMP accumulation. These changes were not observed in cells expressing a mutant mu opioid receptor which does not develop morphine tolerance, suggesting that the changes in [(35)S]-GTP-gamma-S binding observed in hMOR-CHO cells result from the development of morphine tolerance.

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