Combined Glia Inhibition and Opioid Receptor Agonism Afford Highly Potent Analgesics without Tolerance

Eyup Akgün, Mary M. Lunzer, Philip S. Portoghese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Commonly prescribed opioid analgesics produce tolerance upon chronic use due in part to induction of hyperalgesia. Given that two reported bivalent ligands (MMG22 and MCC22) produce potent antinociception without tolerance only in inflamed mice, we have investigated the possible cellular and receptor targets of these ligands. The selective microglia inhibitors, minocycline and SB290157, antagonized intrathecal (i.t.) MCC22 antinociception orders of magnitude more potently than MMG22, suggesting that MCC22 selectively targets activated microglia. The astrocyte toxin, l-α-aminoadipic acid antagonized MMG22 antinociception 126-fold without reducing the potency of MCC22, indicating that activated astrocytes are targets of MMG22. MK-801 and Ro25-6981 antagonism of MMG22 antinociception, but not MCC22, is consistent with selective inhibition of activated NMDAR in astrocytes. The antinociception produced by i.t. MMG22 or MCC22 were both antagonized by the selective mu opioid receptor antagonist, β-FNA, implicating interaction of these ligands with MOR in spinal afferent neurons. MCC22 antinociception was potently blocked by kainate or AMPA ion channel antagonists (LY382884; NBQX), in contrast to MMG22. It is concluded that i.t. MMG22 and MCC22 produce exceptional antinociception via potent inhibition of activated spinal glia, thereby leading to desensitization of spinal neurons and enhanced activation of neuronal MOR. Thus, the present study suggests a new approach to treatment of chronic inflammatory pain without tolerance through a single molecular entity that simultaneously inhibits activated glia and stimulates MOR in spinal neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2004-2011
Number of pages8
JournalACS Chemical Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 17 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.


  • Astrocytes
  • LPS
  • antinociception
  • microglia
  • spinal desensitization


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