Reversal of opioid-induced muscular rigidity in rats: Evidence for alpha-2 adrenergic involvement

Thomas P. Jerussi, John F. Capacchione, Mark J. Benvenga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Compounds from several different pharmacological classes were tested for their ability to reverse the muscular rigidity induced by an intravenous dose of fentanyl that also caused loss of the righting reflex (LOR). Opioid antagonists reversed the entire syndrome-LOR and rigidity but, generally, rigidity could be reversed nonspecifically by doses of compounds that caused LOR by themselves (e.g., CNS depressants). Muscle relaxants and agonists of histamine, which appeared to be acting peripherally, were also effective. On the other hand, serotonergic drugs and dopamine agonists were not. However, dopaminergic antagonists with adrenolytic activity (i.e., chlorpromazine, haloperidol) reversed rigidity, whereas sulpiride did not. Moreover, rigidity reversed by neuroleptics could be restored by piperoxane, an alpha-2 adrenergic antagonist. In addition, clonidine and other alpha-2 agonists selectively reversed only rigidity following systemic or central administration at doses several orders of magnitude lower than other compounds tested. It is proposed that opioid-induced rigidity is reversed by inhibition of sympathoadrenal outflow which can be accomplished selectively, centrally, by alpha-2 agonists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-289
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1987


  • Alpha-2 agonists
  • Clonidine
  • Opioid rigidity

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