μ-Opioid and δ-opioid receptors are expressed in brainstem antinociceptive circuits: Studies using immunocytochemistry and retrograde tract-tracing

Alexander E. Kalyuzhny, Ulf Arvidsson, Wei Wu, Martin W. Wessendorf

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106 Scopus citations

Abstract

Opioid-produced antinociception in mammals seems to be mediated in part by pathways originating in the periaqueductal gray (PAG) and the rostroventral medulla (RVM), and these pathways may include serotonergic neurons. In the present study, we examined the relationship of the cloned μ- and δ-receptors (MOR1 and DOR1, respectively) to PAG neurons projecting to the RVM, and RVM neurons projecting to the dorsal spinal cord. This was carried out by combining immunocytochemical staining for MOR1, DOR1, and serotonin with fluorescent retrograde tract-tracing. Of 133 retrogradely labeled cells in the RVM, 31% were immunoreactive for MOR1. Of the double- labeled cells, 41% also were immunoreactive for 5HT. Fifty-three percent of retrogradely labeled cells were apposed by DOR1-ir varicosities; 29% of the apposed cells were immunoreactive for 5HT. In the mesencephalon, cells retrogradely labeled from the RVM were usually surrounded by MOR1-ir structures; however, retrogradely labeled cells were never observed to be immunoreactive for MOR1. Similarly, retrogradely labeled cells in the caudal midbrain were seldom, if ever, labeled for DOR1; however, they frequently were apposed by DOR1-ir varicosities. Of 156 retrogradely labeled profiles from three rats, 52 (33%) were apposed by DOR1-ir varicosities. We conclude that both μ- and δ-opioid receptors could be involved in the antinociception mediated by the PAG-RVM-spinal cord circuit. In addition, opioids seem likely to have both direct and indirect effects on spinally projecting RVM cells in general, and on serotonergic RVM cells in particular.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6490-6503
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume16
Issue number20
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 15 1996

Keywords

  • antinociception
  • confocal microscopy
  • immunocytochemistry
  • pain
  • retrograde tract-tracing
  • serotonin
  • δ-opioid receptors
  • μ-opioid receptors

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