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Differential Response to Morphine of the Oligomeric State of μ-Opioid in the Presence of δ-Opioid Receptors

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posted on 12.04.2011, 00:00 by Urszula Golebiewska, Jennifer M. Johnston, Lakshmi Devi, Marta Filizola, Suzanne Scarlata
Prolonged morphine treatment induces extensive desensitization of the μ-opioid receptor (μOR) which is the G-protein-coupled receptor that primarily mediates the cellular response to morphine. To date, the molecular mechanism underlying this process is unknown. Here, we have used live cell fluorescence imaging to investigate whether prolonged morphine treatment affects the physical environment of μOR, or its coupling with G-proteins, in two neuronal cell lines. We find that chronic morphine treatment does not change the amount of enhanced yellow fluorescence protein (eYFP)-tagged μOR on the plasma membrane, and only slightly decreases its association with G-protein subunits. Additionally, morphine treatment does not have a detectable effect on the diffusion coefficient of eYFP-μOR. However, in the presence of another family member, the δ-opioid receptor (δOR), prolonged morphine exposure results in a significant increase in the diffusion rate of μOR. Number and brightness measurements suggest that μOR exists primarily as a dimer that will oligomerize with δOR into tetramers, and morphine promotes the dissociation of these tetramers. To provide a plausible structural context to these data, we used homology modeling techniques to generate putative configurations of μOR-δOR tetramers. Overall, our studies provide a possible rationale for morphine sensitivity.

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