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While it is known that opioid receptors (ORs) are densely expressed in both the brain and periphery, it is widely accepted that hypoxic effects of opioids result solely from their direct action in the CNS. To examine the role of peripheral ORs in triggering brain hypoxia, we used oxygen sensors in freely moving rats to examine how naloxone-HCl and naloxone-methiodide, the latter which is commonly believed to be peripherally restricted, affect brain oxygen responses induced by intravenous heroin at low, human-relevant doses. Similar to naloxone-HCl, naloxone-methiodide at a relatively low dose (2 mg/kg) fully blocked heroin-induced decreases in brain oxygen levels. As measured by mass spectrometry, naloxone-methiodide was found to be ~40-fold less permeable than naloxone-HCl across the blood-brain barrier, thus acting as a selective blocker of peripheral ORs. Despite this selectivity, a low but detectable amount of naloxone was found in brain tissue after naloxone-methiodide administration, potentially influencing our results. Therefore, we examined the effects of naloxone-methiodide at a very low dose (0.2 mg/kg; at which naloxone was undetectable in brain tissue) and found that this drug still powerfully attenuates heroin-induced brain oxygen responses. These data demonstrate the role of peripheral ORs in triggering heroin-induced respiratory depression and subsequent brain hypoxia.

Citation

David Perekopskiy, Anum Afzal, Shelley N Jackson, Ludovic Muller, Amina S Woods, Eugene A Kiyatkin. The Role of Peripheral Opioid Receptors in Triggering Heroin-induced Brain Hypoxia. Scientific reports. 2020 Jan 21;10(1):833

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PMID: 31964994

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