G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels are potassium-selective ion channels. As their name suggests, GIRK channels are effectors of Gi/o G protein-couple receptors whereby activation of these GPCRs leads to increased GIRK channel activity resulting in decreased cellular excitability. In this way, GIRK channels play diverse roles in physiology as effectors of Gi/o-coupled GPCRs: peacemaking in the heart rate, modulation of hormone secretion in endocrine tissues, as well as numerous CNS functions including learning, memory, and addiction/reward. Notably, GIRK channels are widely expressed along the spinothalamic tract and are positioned to play roles in both ascending and descending pain pathways. More notably, GIRK channel knockout and knock-down studies have found that GIRK channels play a major role in the action of opioid analgesics which act predominantly through Gi/o-coupled, opioid-activated GPCRs (e.g., μ-opioid receptors). Recent advances in GIRK channel pharmacology have led to the development of small molecules that directly and selectively activate GIRK channels. Based on research implicating the involvement of GIRK channels in pain pathways and as effectors of opioid analgesics, we conducted a study to determine whether direct pharmacological activation of GIRK channels could produce analgesic efficacy and/or augment the analgesic efficacy morphine, an opioid receptor agonist capable of activating μ-opioid receptors as well as other opioid receptor subtypes. In the present study, we demonstrate that the small-molecule GIRK activator, VU0466551, has analgesic effects when dosed alone or in combination with submaximally effective doses of morphine.
- formalin assay
- hot plate
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural