Neuronal cytochrome P450 activity and opioid analgesia: Relevant sites and mechanisms

Lindsay B. Hough, Julia W. Nalwalk, Weizhu Yang, Xinxin Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Recent studies suggest a functional role for neuronal cytochrome P450 monooxygenase (P450) activity in opioid analgesia. To characterize the relevant receptors, brain areas, and circuits, detailed in vitro and in vivo studies were performed with the highly selective μ opioid receptor agonist DAMGO in neuronal P450-deficient mutant (Null) and control mice. Homogenates of brain regions and spinal cord showed no differences in DAMGO-induced activation of [35S]- GTPγS binding between Null and control mice, indicating no genotype differences in μ opioid receptor signaling, receptor affinities or receptor densities. Intracerebroventricular (icv) DAMGO produced robust, near-maximal, analgesic responses in control mice which were attenuated by 50% in Null mice, confirming a role for μ opioid receptors in activating P450-associated responses. Intra-periaqueductal gray (PAG) and intra-rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) injections of DAMGO revealed deficits in Null (vs. control) analgesic responses, yet no such genotype differences were observed after intrathecal DAMGO administration. Taken with earlier published findings, the present results suggest that activation of μ opioid receptors in both the PAG and in the RVM relieves pain by mechanisms which include nerve-terminal P450 enzymes within inhibitory PAG-RVM projections. Spinal opioid analgesia, however, does not seem to require such P450 enzyme activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-18
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - 2015


  • Analgesia
  • Brain stem
  • Cytochrome P450
  • Opioid
  • Pain
  • μ opioidreceptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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