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Brain Behav Immun. 2010 Jul;24(5):683-94. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2009.10.013. Epub 2009 Oct 29.

Opioid receptors and opioid peptide-producing leukocytes in inflammatory pain--basic and therapeutic aspects.

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Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Charité Campus Benjamin Franklin, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany.


This review summarizes recent findings on neuro-immune mechanisms underlying opioid-mediated inhibition of pain. The focus is on events occurring in peripheral injured tissues that lead to the sensitization and excitation of primary afferent neurons, and on the modulation of such mechanisms by immune cell-derived opioid peptides. Primary afferent neurons are of particular interest from a therapeutic perspective because they are the initial generators of impulses relaying nociceptive information towards the spinal cord and the brain. Thus, if one finds ways to inhibit the sensitization and/or excitation of peripheral sensory neurons, subsequent central events such as wind-up, sensitization and plasticity may be prevented. This is in part achieved by endogenously released immune cell-derived opioid peptides within inflamed tissue. In addition, exogenous opioid receptor ligands that selectively modulate primary afferent function and do not cross the blood-brain barrier, avoid centrally mediated untoward side effects of conventional analgesics (e.g., opioids, anticonvulsants). This article discusses peripheral opioid receptors and their signaling pathways, opioid peptide-producing/secreting inflammatory cells and arising therapeutic perspectives.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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