Opioids and opioid receptors orchestrate wound repair

Ying Wang, Mihir Gupta, Tasneem Poonawala, Mariya Farooqui, Yunfang Li, Fei Peng, Sheldon Rao, Michael Ansonoff, John E. Pintar, Kalpna Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


We have previously shown that topical opioids including morphine and its congeners promote healing of full thickness ischemic wounds in rats. We examined the contribution of mu opioid receptor (MOPr)–mediated healing of full thickness ischemic wounds using MOPr and delta or kappa opioid receptor knockout (KO) mice. Wound closure in the early (day 5) as well as later phases was delayed in topical morphine or PBS-treated MOPr-KO mice compared with reciprocal treatments of wounds in wild-type (WT) mice. MOPr expression was significantly upregulated at 30 min in the wound margins and colocalized with wound margins and vasculature in the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin. We next examined whether neuropeptide expression was involved in the mechanism of MOPr-mediated wound closure. Substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene-related peptide immunoreactivity (ir) was significantly increased in the skin of MOPr-KO mice as compared with WT mice. Neuropeptide-ir was increased significantly in PBS-treated wounds of MOPr and WT mice, but morphine treatment reduced neuropeptide immunoreactivity in both as compared with PBS. Wounding of keratinocytes led to the release of opioid peptide beta-endorphin (β-END) in conditioned medium, which stimulated the proliferation of endothelial cells. MOPr-selective (D-Phe-Cys-Tyr-D-Trp-Orn-Thr-Pen-Thr-NH2, CTOP) and nonselective OPr antagonist naloxone-inhibited endothelial proliferation induced by wounded keratinocyte-conditioned medium. In addition, accelerated wound area closure in vitro by morphine was suppressed by methylnaltrexone, a nonselective OPr antagonist with high affinity for MOPr. Morphine and its congeners stimulated the proliferation of endothelial cells from WT mice but not those from MOPr-KO mice. Furthermore, morphine-induced mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation in endothelial cells was significantly decreased in MOPr-KO mice as compared with WT mice. Collectively, these data suggest that MOPr plays a critical role in the proliferation phase with the formation of granulation tissue during wound healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-23
Number of pages11
JournalTranslational Research
StatePublished - Jul 2017

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© 2017 Elsevier Inc.


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