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J Neurochem. 2013 Nov;127(3):329-41. doi: 10.1111/jnc.12386. Epub 2013 Sep 18.

δ-opioid receptor activation leads to neurite outgrowth and neuronal differentiation via a STAT5B-Gαi/o pathway.

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Laboratory of Cellular Signalling and Molecular Pharmacology, Institute of Biosciences and Applications, National Centre for Scientific Research "Demokritos", Athens, Greece.


It remains unclear how opioid receptors (δ, μ, κ) are implicated in mechanisms controlling differentiation, cell proliferation, and survival. Opioid receptors are coupled to Gi/Go proteins and recent findings have shown that opioid receptors can form a multicomponent signaling complex, consisting of members of G protein and the signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)5B. We thus wondered whether activation of the opioid receptors could direct differentiation and neurite outgrowth through a molecular pathway involving STAT5B and other signaling intermediates. We demonstrate that prolonged δ-opioid receptor (δ-OR) activation with opioid agonists induces STAT5B phosphorylation in Neuro-2A cells. Moreover, [D-Ser2, Leu5, Thr6]-enkephalin-activation of δ-OR triggers neurite outgrowth and neuronal survival; these effects are blocked by the selective antagonist naltrindole, by treatment with pertussis toxin, and after expression of a dominant negative mutant of STAT5B (DN-STAT5B), suggesting that the signaling pathway participating in this mechanism involves Gi/o proteins and p-STAT5B. Additional studies have shown that while [D-Ser(2) , Leu(5) , Thr(6) ]-enkephalin exposure of neuroblastoma cells induces a marked increase in the differentiation marker proteins, βIII-tubulin (Tuj-1), synaptophysin, and neural cell adhesion molecule, over-expression of the DN-STAT5B attenuated significantly their expression levels. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that δ-OR activation leads to a number of neurotropic events via a Gαi/o-linked and STAT5B-dependent manner. We propose a novel signalling pathway for δ-opioid receptor (δ-ΟR)-mediated neurotropic events. STAT5B interacts with the δ-ΟR and upon prolonged receptor activation phosphorylates STAT5B in a Gi/Go dependent manner leading to increased neuronal survival, neurite outgrowth and differentiation. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the molecular and cellular events following δ-OR activation and suggest a possible neuroprotective role opioids could exert.


Gα subunits; differentiation; neurite outgrowth; neuronal survival; signal transducer and activator of transcription 5B; δ-opioid receptor

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