Leukocyte opioid receptors mediate analgesia via Ca(2+)-regulated release of opioid peptides.

TitleLeukocyte opioid receptors mediate analgesia via Ca(2+)-regulated release of opioid peptides.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsCelik MÖ, Labuz D, Henning K, Busch-Dienstfertig M, Gaveriaux-Ruff C, Kieffer BL, Zimmer A, Machelska H
JournalBrain Behav Immun
Date Published2016 Oct

Opioids are the most powerful analgesics. As pain is driven by sensory transmission and opioid receptors couple to inhibitory G proteins, according to the classical concept, opioids alleviate pain by activating receptors on neurons and blocking the release of excitatory mediators (e.g., substance P). Here we show that analgesia can be mediated by opioid receptors in immune cells. We propose that activation of leukocyte opioid receptors leads to the secretion of opioid peptides Met-enkephalin, β-endorphin and dynorphin A (1-17), which subsequently act at local neuronal receptors, to relieve pain. In a mouse model of neuropathic pain induced by a chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve, exogenous agonists of δ-, μ- and κ-opioid receptors injected at the damaged nerve infiltrated by opioid peptide- and receptor-expressing leukocytes, produced analgesia, as assessed with von Frey filaments. The analgesia was attenuated by pharmacological or genetic inactivation of opioid peptides, and by leukocyte depletion. This decrease in analgesia was restored by the transfer of wild-type, but not opioid receptor-lacking leukocytes. Ex vivo, exogenous opioids triggered secretion of opioid peptides from wild-type immune cells isolated from damaged nerves, which was diminished by blockade of Gαi/o or Gβγ (but not Gαs) proteins, by chelator of intracellular (but not extracellular) Ca(2+), by blockers of phospholipase C (PLC) and inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) receptors, and was partially attenuated by protein kinase C inhibitor. Similarly, the leukocyte depletion-induced decrease in exogenous opioid analgesia was re-established by transfer of immune cells ex vivo pretreated with extracellular Ca(2+) chelator, but was unaltered by leukocytes pretreated with intracellular Ca(2+) chelator or blockers of Gαi/o and Gβγ proteins. Thus, both ex vivo opioid peptide release and in vivo analgesia were mediated by leukocyte opioid receptors coupled to the Gαi/o-Gβγ protein-PLC-IP3 receptors-intracellular Ca(2+) pathway. Our findings suggest that opioid receptors in immune cells are important targets for the control of pathological pain.

Alternate JournalBrain Behav. Immun.
PubMed ID27139929