Studies on behavioral regulations of morphine tolerance in rats

Jijun Xu, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Opioids remain the drugs of choice in chronic pain treatment, but opioid tolerance, defined as a decrease in analgesic effect after prolonged or repeated use, dramatically limits their clinical utility. Opioid tolerance has classically been studied by implanting spinal catheters in animals for drug administration. This procedure has significant morbidity and mortality, as well as causing an inflammatory response which decreases the potency of opioid analgesia and possibly affects tolerance development. Therefore, we developed and validated a new method, intermittent lumbar puncture (Dautzenberg et al.), for the study of opioid analgesia and tolerance. Using this method, opioid tolerance was reliably induced without detectable morbidity. The dose of morphine needed to induce analgesia and tolerance using this method was about 100-fold lower than that required when using an intrathecal catheter. Only slight inflammation was found at the injection site, dissipated within seven mm. DAMGO, an opioid μ receptor agonist, has been reported to inhibit morphine tolerance, but results from different studies are inconclusive. We evaluated the effect of DAMGO on morphine tolerance using our newly-developed ILP method, as well as other intrathecal catheter paradigms. We found that co-administration of sub-analgesic DAMGO with morphine using ILP did not inhibit morphine tolerance, but instead blocked the analgesic effects of morphine. Tolerance to morphine still developed. Tolerance to morphine can only be blocked by sub-analgesic dose of DAMGO when administered in a lumbar catheter, but not in cervical catheter settings. Finally, we evaluated the effects of Gabapentin (GBP) on analgesia and morphine tolerance. We demonstrated that GBP enhanced analgesia mediated by both subanalgesic and analgesic doses of morphine although GBP itself was not analgesic. GBP increased potency and efficacy of morphine. GBP inhibited the expression, but not the development, of morphine tolerance. GBP blocked tolerance to analgesic morphine but not to subanalgesic morphine. GBP reversed the expression of morphine tolerance even after tolerance was established. These studies may begin to provide new insights into mechanisms of morphine tolerance development and improve clinical chronic pain management.

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Recommended Citation

Xu, Jijun, "Studies on behavioral regulations of morphine tolerance in rats" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3256569.