Morphine Promotes Astrocyte-Preferential Differentiation of Mouse Hippocampal Progenitor Cells via PKCε-Dependent ERK Activation and TRBP Phosphorylation

Chi Xu, Hui Zheng, Horace H. Loh, Ping Yee Law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Previously we have shown that morphine regulates adult neurogenesis by modulating miR-181a maturation and subsequent hippocampal neural progenitor cell (NPC) lineages. Using NPCs cultured from PKCε or β-arrestin2 knockout mice and the MAPK/ERK kinase inhibitor U0126, we demonstrate that regulation of NPC differentiation via the miR-181a/Prox1/Notch1 pathway exhibits ligand-dependent selectivity. In NPCs, morphine and fentanyl activate ERK via the PKCε- and β-arrestin-dependent pathways, respectively. After fentanyl exposure, the activated phospho-ERK translocates to the nucleus. Conversely, after morphine treatment, phospho-ERK remains in the cytosol and is capable of phosphorylating TAR RNA-binding protein (TRBP), a cofactor of Dicer. This augments Dicer activity and promotes the maturation of miR-181a. Furthermore, using NPCs transfected with wild-type TRBP, SΔA, and SΔD TRBP mutants, we confirmed the crucial role of TRBP phosphorylation in Dicer activity, miR-181a maturation, and finally the morphine-induced astrocyte-preferential differentiation of NPCs. Thus, morphine modulates the lineage-specific differentiation of NPCs by PKCε-dependent ERK activation with subsequent TRBP phosphorylation and miR-181a maturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2762-2772
Number of pages11
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015



  • Adult stem cells
  • Cell signaling
  • MAPK
  • Neural differentiation
  • Neural stem cell
  • Progenitor cells
  • Signal transduction
  • miRNA

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