Inverse agonists and neutral antagonists at µ opioid receptor (MOR): possible role of basal receptor signaling in narcotic dependence

Authors

  • Danxin Wang,

    1. Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Wheeler Center for Neurobiology of Addiction, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
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  • Kirsten M. Raehal,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado, USA
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  • Edward J. Bilsky,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado, USA
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  • Wolfgang Sadée

    1. Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Wheeler Center for Neurobiology of Addiction, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
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Address correspondence and reprint requests to W. Sadée, School of Pharmacy, Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Box 0446, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143–0446, USA. E-mail: sadee@cgl.ucsf.edu

Abstract

The µ opioid receptor, MOR, displays spontaneous agonist-independent (basal) G protein coupling in vitro. To determine whether basal MOR signaling contributes to narcotic dependence, antagonists were tested for intrinsic effects on basal MOR signaling in vitro and in vivo, before and after morphine pretreatment. Intrinsic effects of MOR ligands were tested by measuring GTPγS binding to cell membranes and cAMP levels in intact cells. β-CNA, C-CAM, BNTX, and nalmefene were identified as inverse agonists (suppressing basal MOR signaling). Naloxone and naltrexone were neutral antagonists (not affecting basal signaling) in untreated cells, whereas inverse agonistic effects became apparent only after morphine pretreatment. In contrast, 6α- and 6β-naltrexol and -naloxol, and 6β-naltrexamine were neutral antagonists regardless of morphine pretreatment. In an acute and chronic mouse model of morphine-induced dependence, 6β-naltrexol caused significantly reduced withdrawal jumping compared to naloxone and naltrexone, at doses effective in blocking morphine antinociception. This supports the hypothesis that naloxone-induced withdrawal symptoms result at least in part from suppression of basal signaling activity of MOR in morphine-dependent animals. Neutral antagonists have promise in treatment of narcotic addiction.

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