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Anesthesiology. 2005 Mar;102(3):522-30.

Polymorphism of mu-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1:c.118A>G) does not protect against opioid-induced respiratory depression despite reduced analgesic response.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands.



The effect of a single nucleotide polymorphism of the mu-opioid receptor at nucleotide position 118 (OPRM1:c.118A>G) was investigated on morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G)-induced analgesia and respiratory depression in a group of healthy volunteers.


Sixteen subjects of either sex received 0.4 mg/kg (n = 8) or 0.6 mg/kg M6G (n = 8). At regular time intervals, the isocapnic acute hypoxic ventilatory response, pain tolerance (derived from a transcutaneous electrical acute pain model), and arterial blood samples were obtained. Data acquisition continued for 14 h after drug infusion. Population pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic sigmoid Emax models were applied to the respiratory and pain data. All collected data were analyzed using the statistical program NONMEM (San Francisco, CA).


Four of the subjects were OPRM1:c.118GA heterozygotes, and the remainder of the subjects were OPRM1:c.118AA homozygotes. M6G analgesia: In contrast to analgesic responses in OPRM1:c.118AA homozygotes, responses were small and inconsistent in OPRM1:c.118GA heterozygotes and best described by the function Effect(t) = baseline (P < 0.01 vs. OPRM1:c.118AA homozygotes). Emax and C50 values in heterozygotes equaled 0.55 +/- 0.18 (or a 55% increase in current above baseline) and 161 +/- 42 ng/ml, respectively. M6G-induced respiratory depression: For the acute hypoxic response, neither Emax nor C50 (value = 282 +/- 72 ng/ml) differed between genotypes.


The data indicate that the OPRM1:c.118A>G polymorphism affects opioid analgesic and respiratory effects differentially. Despite reduced analgesic responses to M6G the OPRM1:c.118A>G single-nucleotide polymorphism does not protect against the toxic effects of the tested opioid. However, some caution in the interpretation of the data is needed because of the small sample size. Further studies are needed to explore the link between this polymorphism and respiratory/analgesic responses beyond the small human sample. In OPRM1:c.118AA homozygotes, the potency parameters differed by a factor of 2 for analgesic versus respiratory effect. In this respect, M6G differs favorably from morphine.

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