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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2019 Sep;370(3):369-379. doi: 10.1124/jpet.118.253013. Epub 2019 Jun 18.

Discriminative Stimulus and Low Abuse Liability Effects of Novel Endomorphin Analogs Suggest a Potential Treatment Indication for Opioid Use Disorder.

Author information

1
Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (J.E.Z.), Departments of Medicine (J.E.Z.), Neuroscience (M.R.N., M.L., C.C., L.A., J.V., J.E.Z.), and Pharmacology (J.E.Z.), Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana.
2
Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (J.E.Z.), Departments of Medicine (J.E.Z.), Neuroscience (M.R.N., M.L., C.C., L.A., J.V., J.E.Z.), and Pharmacology (J.E.Z.), Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana jzadina@tulane.edu.

Abstract

Opioid dependence can be difficult to manage using existing pharmacotherapies. A long-acting opioid with low abuse liability that substitutes for a shorter-acting opioid may improve treatment of opioid use disorders (OUDs). We recently characterized an endomorphin (EM) analog (ZH853) that produced a longer duration of antinociception compared with morphine, but did not produce self-administration or several other adverse effects preclinically. Here, we further characterized ZH853 in tests of antinociception, abuse liability, and drug discrimination. A conditioned place preference (CPP) procedure, that included a locomotor activity assessment, was used to test abuse liability in rats. Subsequently, dopamine (DA) cell-somas located in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) from these rats were assessed by size using immunohistochemistry and Stereo Investigator software. A hot-plate antinociception test in male and female mice confirmed central penetration. Morphine-substitution effects of several EM analogs (ZH850, ZH831, and ZH853) were tested in a drug discrimination (DD) procedure in rats. Morphine produced dose-dependent CPP and locomotor sensitization and reduced the size of DA cell somas in VTA, whereas ZH853 did not produce any of these effects relative to control. The antinociceptive effects of ZH853 were μ-receptor selective since β-funaltrexamine antagonized these effects. Rats responded on a morphine-trained lever when injected with ZH831 and ZH853 during DD experiments. The favorable morphine-substitution effects of these EM analogs relative to their low abuse liability indicate promising novel compounds that may improve treatment of OUD. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: In this experiment, we investigated the preclinical effects of novel endomorphin analogs for use as substitution therapies for opioid use disorder, a problem that has contributed to an opioid overdose epidemic. Several endomorphin analogs substituted for morphine without producing adverse effects, including reward behaviors associated with abuse liability. These compounds have the potential to become important additional tools to treat opioid use disorders.

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