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Current Topics in Opioid Research

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Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00756

Binge-Like Exposure to Ethanol Enhances Morphine’s Anti-Nociception in B6 Mice

 Sulie L. Chang1*,  Wenfei Huang1,  Haijun Han1 and Ilker K. Sariyer2
  • 1Seton Hall University, United States
  • 2Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University, United States

Elevation of the blood ethanol concentration (BEC) to > 80 mg/dL (17.4 mM) after binge drinking enhances inflammation in brain and neuroimmune signaling pathways. Morphine abuse is frequently linked to excessive drinking. Morphine exerts its actions mainly via the seven transmembrane G-protein-coupled mu opioid receptors (MORs). Opioid use disorders (OUDs) include combination of opioids with alcohol, leading to opioid overdose-related deaths. We hypothesized that binge drinking potentiates onset and progression of OUD. Using C57BL/6J (B6) mice, we first characterized time-dependent inflammatory gene expression change as molecular markers using qRT-PCR within 24 h after binge-like exposure to high-dose, high-concentration ethanol (EtOH). The mice were given one injection of EtOH (5 g/kg, 42% v/v, i.g.) and sacrificed at 2.5 h, 5 h, 7.5 h, or 24 h later. Inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and IL-18 were elevated in both the striatum (STr) and the nucleus accumbens (NAc) of the mice. We then investigated the expression profile of MOR in the STr at 2 min, 5 h, or 24 h after the first EtOH injection and at 24 h and 48 h after the third injection. This binge-like exposure to EtOH upregulated MOR expression in the STr and NAc, an effect that could enhance morphine’s anti-nociception. Therefore, we examined the impact of binge-like exposure to EtOH on morphine’s anti-nociception at the behavioral level. The mice were treated with or without 3-d binge-like exposure to EtOH, and the anti-nociceptive changes were evaluated using the hot-plate test 24 h after the final (3rd) EtOH injection with or without a cumulative subcutaneous dose (0, 0.1, 0.3, 1.0, and 3.0 mg/kg) of morphine at intervals of 30 min. The response curve of the mice given EtOH was shifted to the left, showing enhanced latency to response to morphine up to 3 mg/kg. Furthermore, co-treatment with the MOR antagonist naltrexone blocked morphine’s anti-nociception in animals given either EtOH or saline. This confirms that MOR is involved in binge-like exposure to EtOH-induced changes in morphine’s anti-nociception. Our results suggest that EtOH enhanced latency to analgesic response to morphine, and such effect might initiate the onset and progression of OUDs.

Keywords: Morphine, mu opioid receptor, high-dose ethanol, Anti-nociception, Striatum, Nucleus Accumbens

Received: 31 Jul 2018; Accepted: 20 Dec 2018.

Edited by:

Lawrence Toll, Florida Atlantic University, United States

Reviewed by:

Marian L. Logrip, Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis, United States
Brian Reed, Rockefeller University, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Chang, Huang, Han and Sariyer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Sulie L. Chang, Seton Hall University, South Orange, United States,