Morphine is widely used to treat chronic pain, however its utility is hindered by the development of tolerance to its analgesic effects. While N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are known to play roles in morphine tolerance and dependence, less is known about the roles of individual NMDA receptor subtypes. In this study, Ro 256981, an antagonist of the NMDA receptor subunit NR2B, was used to reduce the expression of analgesic tolerance to morphine. The mechanisms altered with chronic drug use share similarities with those underlying the establishment of long-tem potentiation (LTP) and behavioral memory. Since NMDA NR2B receptors in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) play roles in the establishment of LTP and fear memory, we explored their role in changes that occur in this region after chronic morphine. Both systemic and intra-ACC inhibition of NR2B in morphine-tolerant animals inhibited the expression of analgesic tolerance. Electrophysiological recordings revealed a significant increase in the NR2B component of NMDA receptor mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs), at both synaptic and extra-synaptic sites. However, there was no change in alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor mediated EPSCs. This study suggests that selective inhibition of NMDA NR2B receptors may prove useful in combating the development of analgesic tolerance to morphine and proposes a novel role for the ACC in opioid tolerance and morphine induced changes in synaptic plasticity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience