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Naloxone-induced analgesia mediated by central kappa opioid system in chronic inflammatory pain

Highlights•High dose of systemic naloxone administration reduces spontaneous pain behavior in chronic inflammatory pain condition.•Kappa opioid receptor system in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) are facilitated in chronic inflammatory condition.•Naloxone blocks facilitated kappa opioid system in NAc and CeA.AbstractOpioids, which are widely used for the treatment of chronic pain, have an analgesic effect by mainly activating mu-opioid receptor (MOR). Paradoxically, a high dose of naloxone, non-selective opioid receptor antagonist, is also known to induce analgesia, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Since kappa-opioid receptor (KOR) and dynorphin (KOR ligand) have been implicated in the naloxone-induced analgesia, we aimed to elucidate its mechanism by focusing on the kappa-opioid system in the brain under inflammatory pain condition. Systemic administration of naloxone (10 mg/kg, i.p.) decreased spontaneous pain behaviors only in complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA)-induced chronic inflammatory pain model but not in the formalin-induced acute pain model. Immunohistochemistry analysis in the CFA model revealed both a significant decrease in MOR expression and an increase in prodynorphin density in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) and nucleus accumbens (NAc) but not in other brain areas. Systemic administration of KOR antagonist (norbinaltorphimine, nor-BNI 10 mg/kg) also decreased spontaneous pain behaviors in the CFA model. Furthermore, microinjection of both naloxone and nor-BNI into NAc and CeA significantly reduced spontaneous chronic pain behavior. Taken together, our results suggest that naloxone-induced analgesia may be mediated by blocking facilitated kappa-opioid systems in the NAc and CeA.

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