Effects of peripheral nerve injury on delta opioid receptor (DOR) immunoreactivity in the rat spinal cord

Laura S. Stone, Lucy Vulchanova, Maureen S Riedl, Frank G Williams, George L Wilcox, Robert Elde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Morphine and other opioids have direct analgesic actions in the spinal cord and chronic spinal administration of opioid agonists is used clinically in patients suffering from severe, chronic pain. Neuropathic pain resulting from peripheral nerve injury is often less sensitive to opioid therapy than other forms of chronic pain in both humans and animal models. Changes in spinal mu-opioid receptor (MOR) expression have been demonstrated in animal models of neuropathic pain. However, these changes alone fail to account for the attenuation of opioid activity. Reduced expression of delta-opioid receptors (DOR) following peripheral nerve injury has been reported but most of these reports are limited to subjective observation. The magnitude and consistency of these changes is therefore unclear. In addition, previous studies did not evaluate the effects of nerve injury on behavioral measures to confirm induction of aberrant pain symptoms. We therefore performed quantitative image analysis to evaluate the effect of peripheral nerve injury on DOR-immunoreactivity in spinal cord sections from rats previously characterized for sensory responsiveness. We observed statistically significant decreases ipsilateral to nerve injury in all three models tested: sciatic nerve transection, chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve and L5/L6 spinal nerve ligation. These results suggest that decreases in the expression of DOR are a common feature of peripheral nerve injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-211
Number of pages4
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - May 6 2004


  • Chronic constriction injury
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Sciatic nerve transection
  • Spinal nerve ligation

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