Modulations of NeuroD activity contribute to the differential effects of morphine and fentanyl on dendritic spine stability

Hui Zheng, Yan Zeng, Ji Chu, Angel Yuet Fang Kam, Horace H Loh, Ping-Yee Law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The cellular level of neurogenic differentiation 1 (NeuroD) is modulated differentially by μ-opioid receptor agonists; fentanyl increases NeuroD level by reducing the amount of microRNA-190 (miR-190), an inhibitor of NeuroD expression, whereas morphine does not alter NeuroD level. In the current study, NeuroD activity was demonstrated to be also under agonist-dependent regulation. After 3 d of treatment, morphine and fentanyl decreased the activity of the Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II α (CaMKIIα), which phosphorylates and activates NeuroD. Because NeuroD activity is determined by both the CaMKIIα activity and the cellular NeuroD level, the overall NeuroD activity was reduced by morphine, but maintained during fentanyl treatment. The differential effects of agonists on NeuroD activity were further confirmed by measuring the mRNA levels of four NeuroD downstream targets: doublecortin, Notch1, neurogenic differentiation 4, and Roundabout 1. Decreased dendritic spine stability and μ-opioid receptor signaling capability were also observed when NeuroD activity was attenuated by miR-190 overexpression or treatment with KN93, a CaMKIIα inhibitor. The decrease could be rescued by NeuroD overexpression, which restored NeuroD activity to the basal level. Furthermore, elevating NeuroD activity attenuated the morphine-induced decrease in dendritic spine stability. Therefore, by regulating NeuroD activity, μ-opioid receptor agonists modulate the stability of dendritic spines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8102-8110
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 16 2010


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