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Neuroscience. 1998 Feb;82(4):1225-42.

Localization and regulation of the delta-opioid receptor in dorsal root ganglia and spinal cord of the rat and monkey: evidence for association with the membrane of large dense-core vesicles.

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Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


Using immunohistochemistry and immunoelectron microscopy, the localization and regulation of delta-opioid receptor-like immunoreactivity were studied in dorsal root ganglia and spinal cord of normal rat and monkey, and after peripheral axotomy. Delta-opioid receptor-like immunoreactivity was observed in many small dorsal root ganglion neurons, and in the rat most of them contained substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide. At the ultrastructural level, delta-opioid receptor-like immunoreactivity was localized in the Golgi complex, on the membrane of the large dense-core vesicles and on the membrane of and/or inside a type of large vesicle with an interior of low electron density. The latter vesicles were often in contact with multivesicular bodies. In the superficial dorsal horn of the spinal cord, most delta-opioid receptor-positive nerve fibers contain substance P and/or calcitonin gene-related peptide, both in rat and monkey. Also, in these nerve endings delta-opioid receptor-like immunoreactivity was found on the membrane of large dense-core vesicles and on the membrane of, or in, the lucent vesicles. Occasionally, delta-opioid receptor-like immunoreactivity was observed on the plasmalemma of the terminals, particularly when the vesicles were in exocytotic contact with the plasmalemma. Peripheral axotomy induced a decrease in delta-opioid receptor-like immunoreactivity both in cell bodies in the dorsal root ganglia and in terminals in the dorsal horn. These data suggest that the delta-opioid receptor may be a constituent of the membrane of large dense-core vesicles storing and releasing neuropeptides. It is suggested that upon exocytotic release of substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide from large dense-core vesicles, there is a transient modification of the surface of the primary afferent terminals which leads to exposure of the receptor protein so that enkephalin released from adjacent terminals can activate the receptor. The decrease in delta-opioid receptors after axotomy indicates that delta-opioid receptor-mediated inhibitory effects are attenuated at the spinal level both in the rat and monkey.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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