BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The majority of studies examining desensitization of the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) have examined those located at cell bodies. However, MORs are extensively expressed at nerve terminals throughout the mammalian nervous system. This study is designed to investigate agonist-induced MOR desensitization at nerve terminals in the mouse ventral tegmental area (VTA).
EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: MOR function was measured in mature mouse brain slices containing the VTA using whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology. Presynaptic MOR function was isolated from postsynaptic function and the functional selectivity, time-dependence and mechanisms of agonist-induced MOR desensitization were examined.
KEY RESULTS: MORs located at GABAergic nerve terminals in the VTA were completely resistant to rapid desensitization induced by the high-efficacy agonists DAMGO and Met-enkephalin. MORs located postsynaptically on GABAergic cell bodies readily underwent rapid desensitization in response to DAMGO. However, after prolonged (>7 h) treatment with Met-enkephalin, profound homologous MOR desensitization was observed. Morphine could induce rapid MOR desensitization at nerve terminals when PKC was activated.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Agonist-induced MOR desensitization in GABAergic neurons in the VTA is compartment-selective as well as agonist-selective. When MORs are located at cell bodies, higher-efficacy agonists induce greater levels of rapid desensitization than lower-efficacy agonists. However, the converse is true at nerve terminals where agonists that induce MOR desensitization via PKC are capable of rapid agonist-induced desensitization while higher-efficacy agonists are not. MOR desensitization induced by higher-efficacy agonists at nerve terminals only takes place after prolonged receptor activation.
LINKED ARTICLES: This article is part of a themed section on Opioids: New Pathways to Functional Selectivity. To view the other articles in this section visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bph.2015.172.issue-2.
- Action Potentials
- Analgesics, Opioid
- Dopaminergic Neurons
- Enkephalin, Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly(5)-
- Enkephalin, Methionine
- GABAergic Neurons
- In Vitro Techniques
- Mice, Inbred C57BL
- Protein Kinase C
- Receptors, Opioid, mu
- Ventral Tegmental Area
- Journal Article
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't