Protein kinase C mediates the synergistic interaction between agonists acting at α2-adrenergic and delta-opioid receptors in spinal cord

Aaron C. Overland, Kelley F. Kitto, Anne Julie Chabot-Doré, Patrick E. Rothwell, Carolyn A. Fairbanks, Laura S. Stone, George L. Wilcox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Coactivation of spinal α2-adrenergic receptors (ARs) and opioid receptors produces antinociceptive synergy. Antinociceptive synergy between intrathecally administered α2AAR and opioid agonists is well documented, but the mechanism underlying this synergy remains unclear. The delta-opioid receptor (DOP) and the α2AARs are coexpressed on the terminals of primary afferent fibers in the spinal cord where they may mediate this phenomenon. We evaluated the ability of the DOP-selective agonist deltorphin II (DELT), the α2AR agonist clonidine (CLON) or their combination to inhibit calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) release from spinal cord slices. We then examined the possible underlying signaling mechanisms involved through coadministration of inhibitors of phospholipase C (PLC), protein kinase C (PKC) or protein kinase A (PKA). Potassium-evoked depolarization of spinal cord slices caused concentrationdependent release of CGRP. Coadministration of DELT and CLON inhibited the release of CGRP in a synergistic manner as confirmed statistically by isobolograpic analysis. Synergy was dependent on the activation of PLC and PKC, but not PKA, whereas the effect of agonist administration alone was only dependent on PLC. The importance of these findings was confirmed in vivo, using a thermal nociceptive test, demonstrating the PKC dependence of CLON-DELT antinociceptive synergy in mice. That inhibition of CGRP release by the combination was maintained in the presence of tetrodotoxin in spinal cord slices suggests that synergy does not rely on interneuronal signaling and may occur within single subcellular compartments. The present study reveals a novel signaling pathway underlying the synergistic analgesic interaction between DOP and α2AR agonists in the spinal cord.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13264-13273
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 21 2009


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