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Ann Neurol. 2003 Mar;53(3):366-75.

Mu opioid receptors and analgesia at the site of a peripheral nerve injury.

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Department of Clinical Neurosciences and the Neuroscience Research Group, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Opioid ligands may exert antinociception through receptors expressed on peripheral afferent axons. Whether local opioid receptors might attenuate neuropathic pain is uncertain. In this work, we examined the function and expression of local mu opioid receptors (MORs) associated with the chronic constriction injury (CCI) model of sciatic neuropathic pain in rats. Low-dose morphine or its carrier were percutaneously superfused over the CCI site with the injector blinded to the identity of the injectate. Morphine, but not its carrier, and not equimolar systemic doses of morphine reversed thermal hyperalgesia in a dose-related, naloxone-sensitive fashion. Moreover, analgesia was conferred at both 48 hours and 14 days after CCI, times associated with very different stages of nerve repair. Equimolar local DAGO ([D-Ala2, N-Me-Phe4, Gly5-(ol)] enkephalin), a selective MOR ligand, provided similar analgesia. Local morphine also attenuated mechanical allodynia. MOR protein was expressed in axonal endbulbs of Cajal just proximal to the injury site, in aberrantly regenerating small axons in the epineurial sheath around the CCI site and in residual small axons distal to the CCI lesion. Sensory neurons ipsilateral to CCI had an increase in the proportion of neurons expressing MOR. We suggest that local MOR expressed in axons may be exploited to modulate some forms of neuropathic pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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