Delta Opioid Pharmacology in Relation to Alcohol Behaviors.
ABSTRACT: Delta opioid receptors (DORs) are heavily involved in alcohol-mediated processes in the brain. In this chapter we provide an overview of studies investigating how alcohol directly impacts DOR pharmacology and of early studies indicating DOR modulation of alcohol behavior. We will offer a brief summary of the different animal species used in alcohol studies investigating DORs followed by a broader overview of the types of alcohol behaviors modulated by DORs. We will highlight a small set of studies investigating the relationship between alcohol and DORs in analgesia. We will then provide an anatomical overview linking DOR expression in specific brain regions to different alcohol behaviors. In this section, we will provide two models that try to explain how endogenous opioids acting at DORs may influence alcohol behaviors. Next, we will provide an overview of studies investigating certain new aspects of DOR pharmacology, including the formation of heteromers and biased signaling. Finally, we provide a short overview of the genetics of the DORs in relation to alcohol use disorders (AUDs) and a short statement on the potential of using DOR-based therapeutics for treatment of AUDs.
Project description:BACKGROUND:As a legal drug, alcohol is commonly abused and it is estimated that 17 million adults in the United States suffer from alcohol use disorder. Heavy alcoholics can experience withdrawal symptoms including anxiety and mechanical allodynia that can facilitate relapse. The molecular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are not well understood, which stifles development of new therapeutics. Here we investigate whether delta opioid receptors (DORs) play an active role in alcohol withdrawal-induced mechanical allodynia (AWiMA) and if DOR agonists may provide analgesic relief from AWiMA. METHODS:To study AWiMA, adult male wild-type and DOR knockout C57BL/6 mice were exposed to alcohol by a voluntary drinking model or oral gavage exposure model, which we developed and validated here. We also used the DOR-selective agonist TAN-67 and antagonist naltrindole to examine the involvement of DORs in AWiMA, which was measured using a von Frey model of mechanical allodynia. RESULTS:We created a robust model of alcohol withdrawal-induced anxiety and mechanical allodynia by orally gavaging mice with 3g/kg alcohol for three weeks. AWiMA was exacerbated and prolonged in DOR knockout mice as well as by pharmacological blockade of DORs compared to control mice. However, analgesia induced by TAN-67 was attenuated during withdrawal in alcohol-gavaged mice. CONCLUSIONS:DORs appear to play a protective role in the establishment of AWiMA. Our current results indicate that DORs could be targeted to prevent or reduce the development of AWiMA during alcohol use; however, DORs may be a less suitable target to treat AWiMA during active withdrawal.
Project description:The delta opioid receptor (DOR) is broadly expressed throughout the nervous system; it regulates chronic pain, emotional responses, motivation, and memory. Neural circuits underlying DOR activities have been poorly explored by genetic approaches. We used conditional mouse mutagenesis to elucidate receptor function in GABAergic neurons of the forebrain.We characterized DOR distribution in the brain of Dlx5/6-CreXOprd1(fl/fl) (Dlx-DOR) mice and tested main central DOR functions through behavioral testing.The DOR proteins were strongly deleted in olfactory bulb and striatum and remained intact in cortex and basolateral amygdala. Olfactory perception, circadian activity, and despair-like behaviors were unchanged. In contrast, locomotor stimulant effects of SNC80 (DOR agonist) and SKF81297 (D1 agonist) were abolished and increased, respectively. The Dlx-DOR mice showed lower levels of anxiety in the elevated plus maze, opposing the known high anxiety in constitutive DOR knockout animals. Also, Dlx-DOR mice reached the food more rapidly in a novelty suppressed feeding task, despite their lower motivation for food reward observed in an operant paradigm. Finally, c-fos protein staining after novelty suppressed feeding was strongly reduced in amygdala, concordant with the low anxiety phenotype of Dlx-DOR mice.We demonstrate that DORs expressed in the forebrain mediate the described locomotor effect of SNC80 and inhibit D1-stimulated hyperactivity. Our data also reveal an unanticipated anxiogenic role for this particular DOR subpopulation, with a potential novel adaptive role. In emotional responses, DORs exert dual anxiolytic and anxiogenic roles, both of which may have implications in the area of anxiety disorders.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Chronic alcohol use disorders (AUDs) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are highly comorbid and share commonly affected neuronal substrates (i.e., prefrontal cortex, limbic system, and cerebellum). However, no studies have examined how combined physical trauma and heavy drinking affect neurocircuitry relative to heavy drinking alone. METHODS:The current study investigated whether comorbid AUDs and mild or moderate TBI (AUDs+TBI) would negatively affect maladaptive drinking behaviors (n = 90 AUDs+TBI; n = 62 AUDs) as well as brain structure (i.e., increased atrophy; n = 62 AUDs+TBI; n = 44 AUDs) and function (i.e., activation during gustatory cue reactivity; n = 55 AUDs+TBI; n = 37 AUDs) relative to AUDs alone. RESULTS:Participants reported a much higher incidence of trauma (59.2%) compared with the general population. There were no differences in demographic and clinical measures between groups, suggesting that they were well matched. Although maladaptive drinking behaviors tended to be worse for the AUDs+TBI group, effect sizes were small and not statistically significant. Increased alcohol-cue reactivity was observed in bilateral anterior insula and orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, dorsal striatum, thalamus, brainstem, and cerebellum across both groups relative to a carefully matched appetitive control. However, there were no significant differences in structural integrity or functional activation between AUDs+TBI and AUDs participants, even when controlling for AUD severity. CONCLUSIONS:Current results indicate that a combined history of mild or moderate TBI was not sufficient to alter drinking behaviors and/or underlying neurocircuitry at detectable levels relative to heavy drinking alone. Future studies should examine the potential long-term effects of combined alcohol and trauma on brain functioning.
Project description:The roles of opioid receptors in pain and addiction have been extensively studied, but their function in mood disorders has received less attention. Accumulating evidence from animal research reveals that mu, delta and kappa opioid receptors (MORs, DORs and KORs, respectively) exert highly distinct controls over mood-related processes. DOR agonists and KOR antagonists have promising antidepressant potential, whereas the risk-benefit ratio of currently available MOR agonists as antidepressants remains difficult to evaluate, in addition to their inherent abuse liability. To date, both human and animal studies have mainly examined MORs in the etiology of depressive disorders, and future studies will address DOR and KOR function in established and emerging neurobiological aspects of depression, including neurogenesis, neurodevelopment, and social behaviors.
Project description:Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are complex, and developing effective treatments will require the combination of novel medications and cognitive behavioral therapy approaches. Epidemiological studies have shown there is a high correlation between alcohol consumption and tobacco use, and the prevalence of smoking in alcoholics is as high as 80% compared to about 30% for the general population. Both preclinical and clinical data provide evidence that nicotine administration increases alcohol intake and non-specific nicotinic receptor antagonists reduce alcohol-mediated behaviors. As nicotine interacts specifically with the neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) system, this suggests that nAChRs play an important role in the behavioral effects of alcohol. In this review, we discuss the importance of nAChRs for the treatment of AUDs and argue that the use of FDA approved nAChR ligands, such as varenicline and mecamylamine, approved as smoking cessation aids may prove to be valuable treatments for AUDs. We also address the importance of combining effective medications with behavioral therapy for the treatment of alcohol dependent individuals.
Project description:Stress interacts with addictive processes to increase drug use, drug seeking, and relapse. The hippocampal formation (HF) is an important site at which stress circuits and endogenous opioid systems intersect and likely plays a critical role in the interaction between stress and drug addiction. Our prior studies demonstrate that the stress-related neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and the delta-opioid receptor (DOR) colocalize in interneuron populations in the hilus of the dentate gyrus and stratum oriens of CA1 and CA3. While independent ultrastructural studies of DORs and CRF receptors suggest that each receptor is found in CA1 pyramidal cell dendrites and dendritic spines, whether DORs and CRF receptors colocalize in CA1 neuronal profiles has not been investigated. Here, hippocampal sections of adult male and proestrus female Sprague-Dawley rats were processed for dual label pre-embedding immunoelectron microscopy using well-characterized antisera directed against the DOR for immunoperoxidase and against the CRF receptor for immunogold. DOR-immunoreactivity (-ir) was found presynaptically in axons and axon terminals as well as postsynaptically in somata, dendrites and dendritic spines in stratum radiatum of CA1. In contrast, CRF receptor-ir was predominantly found postsynaptically in CA1 somata, dendrites, and dendritic spines. CRF receptor-ir frequently was observed in DOR-labeled dendritic profiles and primarily was found in the cytoplasm rather than at or near the plasma membrane. Quantitative analysis of CRF receptor-ir colocalization with DOR-ir in pyramidal cell dendrites revealed that proestrus females and males show comparable levels of CRF receptor-ir per dendrite and similar cytoplasmic density of CRF receptor-ir. In contrast, proestrus females display an increased number of dual-labeled dendritic profiles and an increased membrane density of CRF receptor-ir in comparison to males. We further examined the functional consequences of CRF receptor-ir colocalization with DOR-ir in the same neuron using the hormone responsive neuronal cell line NG108-15, which endogenously expresses DORs, and assayed intracellular cAMP production in response to CRF receptor and DOR agonists. Results demonstrated that short-term application of DOR agonist SNC80 inhibited CRF-induced cAMP accumulation in NG108-15 cells transfected with the CRF receptor. These studies provide new insights on opioid-stress system interaction in the hippocampus of both males and females and establish potential mechanisms through which DOR activation may influence CRF receptor activity.
Project description:Heteromerization of opioid receptors has been shown to alter opioid receptor pharmacology. However, how receptor heteromerization affects the processes of endocytosis and postendocytic sorting has not been closely examined. This question is of particular relevance for heteromers of the ?-opioid receptor (MOR) and ?-opioid receptor (DOR), because the MOR is recycled primarily after endocytosis and the DOR is degraded in the lysosome. Here, we examined the endocytic and postendocytic fate of MORs, DORs, and DOR/MOR heteromers in human embryonic kidney 293 cells stably expressing each receptor alone or coexpressing both receptors. We found that the clinically relevant MOR agonist methadone promotes endocytosis of MOR but also the DOR/MOR heteromer. Furthermore, we show that DOR/MOR heteromers that are endocytosed in response to methadone are targeted for degradation, whereas MORs in the same cell are significantly more stable. It is noteworthy that we found that the DOR-selective antagonist naltriben mesylate could block both methadone- and [D-Ala2,NMe-Phe4,Gly-ol5]-enkephalin-induced endocytosis of the DOR/MOR heteromers but did not block signaling from this heteromer. Together, our results suggest that the MOR adopts novel trafficking properties in the context of the DOR/MOR heteromer. In addition, they suggest that the heteromer shows "biased antagonism," whereby DOR antagonist can inhibit trafficking but not signaling of the DOR/MOR heteromer.
Project description:Although numerous studies provide general support for the importance of genetic factors in the risk for alcohol use disorders (AUDs), candidate gene and genome-wide studies have yet to identify a set of genetic variations that explain a significant portion of the variance in AUDs. One reason is that alcohol-related phenotypes used in genetic studies are typically based on highly heterogeneous diagnostic categories. Therefore, identifying neurobiological phenotypes related to neuroadaptations that drive the development of AUDs is critical for the future success of genetic and epigenetic studies. One such neurobiological phenotype is the degree to which exposure to alcohol taste cues recruits the basal ganglia, prefrontal cortex, and motor areas, all of which have been shown to have a critical role in addictive behaviors in animal studies. To that end, this study was designed to examine whether cue-elicited responses of these structures are associated with AUD severity in a large sample (n=326) using voxelwise and functional connectivity measures. Results suggested that alcohol cues significantly activated dorsal striatum, insula/orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and ventral tegmental area. AUD severity was moderately correlated with regions involved in incentive salience such as the nucleus accumbens and amygdala, and stronger relationships with precuneus, insula, and dorsal striatum. The findings indicate that AUDs are related to neuroadaptations in these regions and that these measures may represent important neurobiological phenotypes for subsequent genetic studies.
Project description:The delta opioid receptor (DOR) is a promising target to treat multiple indications, including alcoholism, anxiety, and nonmalignant pain. The potential of the DORs has been underappreciated, in part, due to relatively low functional expression of these receptors in naïve states. However, chronic exposure to stress, opioids, and inflammation can induce a redistribution of DORs to the cell surface where they can be activated. Previously, DORs were shown to be selectively/exclusively present in spinal cord circuits mediating mechanical sensitivity but not those mediating thermal nociception under naïve conditions.We spinally administered DOR and mu opioid receptor (MOR) selective agonists ([D-Pen2,D-Pen5]-Enkephalin, deltorphin II, SNC80, and DAMGO) and antagonists (naltriben and CTAP) and determined thermal antinociception and mechanical sensitivity in wild-type mice or mice with a genetic disruption of DOR or MOR. Thermal antinociception was measured using a radiant heat tail-flick assay; mechanical sensitivity was measured using von Frey filaments. Dose response curves were generated in naïve mice and mice exposed to ethanol in a model of voluntary consumption.We show that prolonged exposure to ethanol can promote an upregulation of functional DORs in the spinal cord in thermal pain-mediating circuits but not in those mediating mechanical sensitivity. The upregulated DORs either modulate MOR-mediated analgesia through convergence of circuits or signal transduction pathways and/or interact directly with MORs to form a new functional (heteromeric) unit.Our findings suggest that DORs could be a novel target in conditions in which DORs are redistributed.
Project description:Cellular interactions between delta and mu opioid receptors (DORs and MORs), including heteromerization, are thought to regulate opioid analgesia. However, the identity of the nociceptive neurons in which such interactions could occur in vivo remains elusive. Here we show that DOR-MOR co-expression is limited to small populations of excitatory interneurons and projection neurons in the spinal cord dorsal horn and unexpectedly predominates in ventral horn motor circuits. Similarly, DOR-MOR co-expression is rare in parabrachial, amygdalar, and cortical brain regions processing nociceptive information. We further demonstrate that in the discrete DOR-MOR co-expressing nociceptive neurons, the two receptors internalize and function independently. Finally, conditional knockout experiments revealed that DORs selectively regulate mechanical pain by controlling the excitability of somatostatin-positive dorsal horn interneurons. Collectively, our results illuminate the functional organization of DORs and MORs in CNS pain circuits and reappraise the importance of DOR-MOR cellular interactions for developing novel opioid analgesics.