Activation of opioid receptors on peripheral sensory neurons has the potential for safe pain control, as it lacks centrally-mediated side effects. While this approach often only partially suppressed neuropathic pain in animal models, opioids were mostly applied to animal paws although neuropathy was induced at the nerve trunk. Here we aimed to identify the most relevant peripheral site of opioid action for efficient antinociception in neuropathy. On days 2 and 14 following a chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve in mice, we evaluated dose- and time-relationships of the effects of mu-, delta-, and kappa-opioid receptor agonists injected either at the CCI site or intraplantarly (i.pl.) into the lesioned nerve-innervated paw, on spontaneous paw lifting and heat and mechanical hypersensitivity (using Hargreaves and von Frey tests, respectively). We found that neither agonist diminished spontaneous paw lifting, despite the application site. Heat hypersensitivity was partially attenuated by i.pl. mu-receptor agonist only, while it was improved by all three agonists applied at the CCI site. Mechanical hypersensitivity was slightly diminished by all agonists administered i.pl., whereas it was completely blocked by all opioids injected at the CCI site. These antinociceptive effects were opioid receptor type-selective and site-specific. Thus, opioids might not be effective against spontaneous pain, but improve heat and mechanical hypersensitivity in neuropathy. Importantly, efficient alleviation of hypersensitivity is governed by peripheral opioid receptors at the injured nerve trunk rather than at its peripheral terminals. Identifying the primary action site of analgesics is important for the development of adequate pain therapies.
- The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics