Direct Association of Mu-Opioid and NMDA Glutamate Receptors Supports their Cross-Regulation: Molecular Implications for Opioid Tolerance

Author(s): Javier Garzon, Maria Rodriguez-Munoz, Pilar Sanchez-Blazquez.

Journal Name: Current Drug Abuse Reviews
Continued as Current Drug Research Reviews

Volume 5 , Issue 3 , 2012


In the nervous system, the interaction of opioids like morphine and its derivatives, with the G protein-coupled Mu-opioid receptor (MOR) provokes the development of analgesic tolerance, as well as physical dependence. Tolerance implies that increasing doses of the drug are required to achieve the same effect, a phenomenon that contributes significantly to the social problems surrounding recreational opioid abuse. In recent years, our understanding of the mechanisms that control MOR function in the nervous system, and that eventually produce opioid tolerance, has increased greatly. Pharmacological studies have identified a number of signaling proteins involved in morphine-induced tolerance, including the N-methyl-D-aspartate acid glutamate receptor (NMDAR), nitric oxide synthase (NOS), protein kinase C (PKC), protein kinase A (PKA), calcium (Ca2+)/calmodulin (CaM)-dependent kinase II (CaMKII), delta-opioid receptor (DOR) and the regulators of G-protein signaling (RGS) proteins. There is general agreement on the critical role of the NMDAR/nNOS/CaMKII pathway in this process, which is supported by the recent demonstration of a physical association between MORs and NMDARs in post-synaptic structures. Indeed, it is feasible that treatments that diminish morphine tolerance may target distinct elements within the same regulatory MOR-NMDAR pathway. Accordingly, we propose a model that incorporates the most relevant signaling components implicated in opioid tolerance in which, certain signals originating from the activated MOR are perceived by the associated NMDAR, which in turn exerts a negative feedback effect on MOR signaling. MOR- and NMDAR-mediated signals work together in a sequential and interconnected manner to ultimately induce MOR desensitization. Future studies of these phenomena should focus on adding further components to this signaling pathway in order to better define the mechanism underlying MOR desensitization in neural cells.

Keywords: Mu-opioid receptor, NMDA receptor, receptor tolerance, receptor desensitization, morphine, opioid, analgesia, antinociception, nervous tissue, nitric oxide synthase, zinc ions, redox signaling, protein kinase C, protein kinase A, calcium-calmodulin dependent kinase II, regulators of G-protein signaling proteins.

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Article Details

Year: 2012
Page: [199 - 226]
Pages: 28
DOI: 10.2174/1874473711205030199
Price: $58

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