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The μ-opioid receptor (MOR-1) gene OPRM1 undergoes extensive alternative splicing, generating an array of splice variants. Of these variants, MOR-1A, an intron-retention carboxyl terminal splice variant identical to MOR-1 except for the terminal intracellular tail encoded by exon 3b, is quite abundant and conserved from rodent to humans. Increasing evidence indicates that miroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate MOR-1 expression and that μ agonists such as morphine modulate miRNA expression. However, little is known about miRNA regulation of the OPRM1 splice variants. Using 3'-rapid amplification cDNA end and Northern blot analyses, we identified the complete 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) for both mouse and human MOR-1A and their conserved polyadenylation site, and defined the role the 3'-UTR in mRNA stability using a luciferase reporter assay. Computer models predicted a conserved miR-103/107 targeting site in the 3'-UTR of both mouse and human MOR-1A. The functional relevance of miR-103/107 in regulating expression of MOR-1A protein through the consensus miR-103/107 binding sites in the 3'-UTR was established by using mutagenesis and a miR-107 inhibitor in transfected human embryonic kidney 293 cells and Be(2)C cells that endogenously express human MOR-1A. Chronic morphine treatment significantly upregulated miR-103 and miR-107 levels, leading to downregulation of polyribosome-associated MOR-1A in both Be(2)C cells and the striatum of a morphine-tolerant mouse, providing a new perspective on understanding the roles of miRNAs and OPRM1 splice variants in modulating the complex actions of morphine in animals and humans.


Zhigang Lu, Jin Xu, Mingming Xu, Gavril W Pasternak, Ying-Xian Pan. Morphine regulates expression of μ-opioid receptor MOR-1A, an intron-retention carboxyl terminal splice variant of the μ-opioid receptor (OPRM1) gene via miR-103/miR-107. Molecular pharmacology. 2014 Feb;85(2):368-80

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PMID: 24302561

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