Chronic morphine exposure potentiates p-glycoprotein trafficking from nuclear reservoirs in cortical rat brain microvessels

Charles P. Schaefer, Nathan B. Arkwright, Leigh M. Jacobs, Chelsea K. Jarvis, Kristen C. Hunn, Tally M. Largent-Milnes, Margaret E. Tome, Thomas P. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The rates of opioid prescription and use have continued to increase over the last few decades resulting in a greater number of opioid tolerant patients. Treatment of acute pain from surgery and injury is a clinical challenge for these patients. Several pain management strategies including prescribing increased opioids are used clinically with limited success; all currently available strategies have significant limitations. Many opioids are a substrate for p-glycoprotein (p-gp), an efflux transporter at the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Increased p-gp is associated with a decreased central nervous system uptake and analgesic efficacy of morphine. Our laboratory previously found that acute peripheral inflammatory pain (PIP) induces p-gp trafficking from the nucleus to the luminal surface of endothelial cells making up the BBB concomitant with increased p-gp activity and decreased morphine analgesic efficacy. In the current study, we tested whether PIP-induced p-gp trafficking could contribute to decreased opioid efficacy in morphine tolerant rats. A 6-day continuous dosing of morphine from osmotic minipumps was used to establish morphine tolerance in female rats. PIP induced p-gp trafficking away from nuclear stores showed a 2-fold increase in morphine tolerant rats. This observation suggests that p-gp trafficking contributes to the decreased morphine analgesic effects in morphine tolerant rats experiencing an acute pain stimulus. Attenuating p-gp trafficking during an acute pain stimulus could improve pain management by increasing the amount of opioid that could reach CNS analgesic targets and decrease the need for the dose escalation that is a serious challenge in pain management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0192340
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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