G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 mediates µ-opioid receptor desensitization in GABAergic neurons of the nucleus raphe magnus


Address correspondence and reprint requests to H.-L. Wang, Department of Physiology, Chang Gung University School of Medicine, Kwei-San, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan, R.O.C. E-mail: hlwns@mail.cgu.edu.tw


Nucleus raphe magnus (NRM) sends the projection to spinal dorsal horn and inhibits nociceptive transmission. Analgesic effect produced by µ-opioid receptor agonists including morphine partially results from activating the NRM-spinal cord pathway. It is generally believed that µ-opioid receptor agonists disinhibit spinally projecting neurons of the NRM and produce analgesia by hyperpolarizing GABAergic interneurons. In the present study, whole-cell patch-clamp recordings combined with single-cell RT-PCR analysis were used to test the hypothesis that DAMGO ([D-Ala2,N-methyl-Phe4,Gly-ol5]enkephalin), a specific µ-opioid receptor agonist, selectively hyperpolarizes NRM neurons expressing mRNA of glutamate decarboxylase (GAD67). Homologous desensitization of µ-opioid receptors in NRM neurons could result in the development of morphine-induced tolerance. G protein-coupled receptor kinase (GRK) is believed to mediate µ-opioid receptor desensitization in vivo. Therefore, we also investigated the involvement of GRK in mediating homologous desensitization of DAMΑΜGO-induced electrophysiological effects on NRM neurons by using two experimental strategies. First, single-cell RT-PCR assay was used to study the expression of GRK2 and GRK3 mRNAs in individual DAMGO-responsive NRM neurons. Whole-cell recording was also performed with an internal solution containing the synthetic peptide, which corresponds to Gβγ-binding domain of GRK and inhibits Gβγ activation of GRK. Our results suggest that DAMGO selectively hyperpolarizes NRM GABAergic neurons by opening inwardly rectifying K+ channels and that GRK2 mediates short-term homologous desensitization of µ-opioid receptors in NRM GABAergic neurons.