Dynamic temporal and spatial regulation of mu opioid receptor expression in primary afferent neurons following spinal nerve injury

Chun Yi Lee, Federico M. Perez, Wei Wang, Xiaowei Guan, Xiuli Zhao, Janet L. Fisher, Yun Guan, Sarah M. Sweitzer, Srinivasa N. Raja, Yuan Xiang Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Despite using prescribed pain medications, patients with neuropathic pain continue to experience moderate to severe pain. There is a growing recognition of a potent peripheral opioid analgesia in models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. The goal of this study was to characterize the temporal and spatial expression of mu opioid receptor (mOR) mRNA and protein in primary afferent neurons in a rat L5 spinal nerve ligation model of persistent neuropathic pain. Bilateral L4 and L5 dorsal root ganglia (DRGs), L4 and L5 spinal cord segments, and hind paw plantar skins were collected on days 0 (naïve), 3, 7, 14, and 35 post-spinal nerve ligation or post-sham surgery. We found that expression of mOR mRNA and protein in primary afferent neurons changed dynamically and site-specifically following L5 spinal nerve ligation. Real-time RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, and Western blot analysis demonstrated a down-regulation of mOR mRNA and protein in the injured L5 DRG. In contrast, in the uninjured L4 DRG, mOR mRNA transiently decreased on day 7 and then increased significantly on day 14. Western blot analysis revealed a persistent increase in mOR protein expression, although immunohistochemistry showed no change in number of mOR-positive neurons in the uninjured L4 DRG. Interestingly, mOR protein expression was reduced in the skin on days 14 and 35 post-nerve injury and in the L4 and L5 spinal cord on day 35 post-nerve injury. These temporal and anatomically specific changes in mOR expression following nerve injury are likely to have functional consequences on pain-associated behaviors and opioid analgesia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-675
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Volume15
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2011

Keywords

  • Dorsal root ganglion
  • Expression
  • Mu opioid receptors
  • Peripheral nerve injury
  • Skin
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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