μ- and δ-opioid receptor mRNAS are expressed in spinally projecting serotonergic and nonserotonergic neurons of the rostral ventromedial medulla

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Abstract

The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) is an important mediator of the supraspinal component of opioid antinociception. Previous studies have suggested that activation of the cloned μ- and δ-opioid receptors (MOR1 and DOR1 respectively) in the RVM produces the antinociception mediated by spinally projecting neurons. In the present study, we investigated the expression of mRNA encoding either MOR1 or DOR1 in the RVM of rats. In addition, we examined quantitatively the expression of MOR1 and DOR1 mRNAs in spinally projecting RVM neurons including serotonergic (5HT) cells by using in situ hybridization, immunocytochemistry, retrograde tract-tracing, and the physical disector. Brainstem neurons were labeled in 14 male Sprague-Dawley rats by applying Fluoro-Gold (FG) topically to the dorsal surface of the lumbosacral spinal cord. Five-micrometer-thick cryostat sections were cut and in situ hybridization was performed by using full-length cRNA probes labeled with 35S-UTP. We found that 43% of RVM projection neurons expressed MOR1 mRNA and 83% of RVM projection neurons expressed DOR1 mRNA. Of 192 retrogradely labeled cells in the RVM, 51 cells (27%) were immunoreactive for 5HT. Of this population, half appeared to be labeled for the mRNA encoding MOR1 and over three-fourths appeared to be labeled for the mRNA encoding DOR1. Thus, we conclude that bulbospinal neurons express MOR1 and DOR1; moreover, MOR1 and DOR1 are expressed by significant proportions of 5HT neurons projecting to or through the dorsal spinal cord.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-196
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Volume404
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 8 1999

Keywords

  • Cell counts
  • Fluorescent dyes
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In situ hybridization
  • Neural pathways
  • Pain

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