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Front Immunol. 2016 Aug 2;7:293. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2016.00293. eCollection 2016.

Neuroimmune Interaction in the Regulation of Peripheral Opioid-Mediated Analgesia in Inflammation.

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School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia; Hunter Medical Research Institute, New Lambton Heights, NSW, Australia.


Peripheral immune cell-mediated analgesia in inflammation is an important endogenous mechanism of pain control. Opioid receptors localized on peripheral sensory nerve terminals are activated by endogenous opioid peptides released from immune cells to produce significant analgesia. Following transendothelial migration of opioid-containing leukocytes into peripheral sites of inflammation, opioid peptides are released into a harsh milieu associated with an increase in temperature, low pH, and high proteolytic activity. Together, this microenvironment has been suggested to increase the activity of opioid peptide metabolism. Therefore, the proximity of immune cells and nerve fibers may be essential to produce adequate analgesic effects. Close associations between opioid-containing immune cells and peripheral nerve terminals have been observed. However, it is not yet determined whether these immune cells actually form synaptic-like contacts with peripheral sensory terminals and/or whether they secrete opioids in a paracrine manner. This review will provide novel insight into the peripheral mechanisms of immune-derived analgesia in inflammation, in particular, the importance of direct interactions between immune cells and the peripheral nervous system.


immune cells; inflammation; neuroimmune; opioids; pain; peripheral nervous system

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