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Neuroscience. 2010 Nov 10;170(4):1286-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.08.016. Epub 2010 Aug 18.

Altered morphine-induced analgesia in neurotensin type 1 receptor null mice.

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1
Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada.

Abstract

Both neurotensin (NT) and opioid agonists have been shown to induce antinociception in rodents after central administration. Besides, previous studies have revealed the existence of functional interactions between NT and opioid systems in the regulation of pain processing. We recently demonstrated that NTS1 receptors play a key role in the mediation of the analgesic effects of NT in long-lasting pain. In the present study, we therefore investigated whether NTS1 gene deletion affected the antinociceptive action of mu opioid drugs. To this end, pain behavioral responses to formalin were determined following systemic administration of morphine in both male and female NTS1 knockout mice. Acute injection of morphine (2 or 5 mg/kg) produced strong antinociceptive effects in both male and female wild-type littermates, with no significant sex differences. On the other hand, morphine analgesia was considerably reduced in NTS1-deficient mice of both sexes compared to their respective controls, indicating that the NTS1 receptor actively participates in mu opioid alleviating pain. By examining specifically the flinching, licking and biting nociceptive behaviors, we also showed that the functional crosstalk between NTS1 and mu opioid receptors influences the supraspinally-mediated behaviors. Interestingly, sexual dimorphic action of morphine-induced pain inhibition was found in NTS1 null mice in the formalin test, suggesting that the endogenous NT system interacts differently with the opioid network in male and female mice. Altogether, these results demonstrated that NTS1 receptor activation operates downstream to the opioidergic transmission and that NTS1-selective agonists combined with morphine may act synergistically to reduce persistent pain.

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