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Pleiotropic opioid regulation of spinal endomorphin 2 release and its adaptations to opioid withdrawal are sexually dimorphic

Chakrabarti, S;Liu, NJ;Zadina, JE;Sharma, T;Gintzler, AR;

We studied adaptations to acute precipitated opioid withdrawal of spinal -opioid receptor (MOR)-coupled regulation of the release of endomorphin 2 (EM2). The release of this highly MOR-selective endogenous opioid from opioid-naive spinal tissue of male rats is subjected to MOR-coupled positive as well as negative modulation via cholera toxin-sensitive G(s) and pertussis toxin-sensitive G(i)/G(o), respectively. The net effect of this concomitant bidirectional modulation is inhibitory. MOR-coupled pleiotropic regulation of EM2 release is retained in opioid-withdrawn spinal tissue of male rats, but the balance of MOR-coupled inhibitory and facilitatory regulation shifted such that facilitatory regulation predominates. Augmented coupling of MOR to G(s) is causally associated with this change. Strikingly, pleiotropic characteristics of MOR-coupled regulation of spinal EM2 release and adaptations thereof to opioid withdrawal are male-specific. In females, MOR-coupled regulation of EM2 release from opioid-naive and -withdrawn spinal tissue does not have a significant G(s)-coupled facilitatory component, and MOR-coupled inhibition of EM2 release persists unabated in withdrawn preparations. The male-specific adaptations to chronic morphine that shift the relative predominance of opposing dual G protein-coupled MOR pathways provides a mechanism for mitigating inhibitory MOR signaling without losing MOR-coupled feedback regulation. These adaptations enable using endogenous EM2 as a substitute for morphine that had been precipitously removed. The sexually dimorphic functionality and regulation of spinal EM2/MOR-coupled signaling suggest the clinical utility of using sex-specific treatments for addiction that harness the activity of endogenous opioids.