Recombinant mu and delta opioid receptors expressed in cell lines can form heterodimers with distinctive properties and trafficking. However, a role for opioid receptor heterodimerization in neurons has yet to be identified. The inhibitory coupling of opioid receptors to voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels (VDCCs) is a relatively inefficient process and therefore provides a sensitive assay of altered opioid receptor function and expression. We examined mu-receptor coupling to VDCCs in dorsal root ganglion neurons of delta(+/+), delta(+/-), and delta(-/-) mice. Neurons deficient in delta receptors exhibited reduced inhibition of VDCCs by morphine and [D-Ala(2), Phe(4), Gly(5)-ol]-enkephalin (DAMGO). An absence of delta receptors caused reduced efficacy of DAMGO without affecting potency. An absence of delta receptors reduced neither the density of VDCCs nor their inhibition by either the GABA B receptor agonist baclofen or intracellular guanosine 5'-O-(3-thio)triphosphate. Flow cytometry revealed a reduction in mu-receptor surface expression in delta(-/-) neurons without altered DAMGO-induced internalization. There was no change in mu-receptor mRNA levels. D-Phe-Cys-Tyr-D-Trp-Arg-Thr-Pen-Thr-NH2-sensitive mu-receptor-coupling efficacy was fully restored to delta(+/+) levels in delta(-/-) neurons by expression of recombinant delta receptors. However, the dimerization-deficient delta-15 construct expressed in delta(-/-) neurons failed to fully restore the inhibitory coupling of mu receptors compared with that seen in delta(+/+) neurons, suggesting that, although not essential for mu-receptor function, mu-delta receptor dimerization contributes to full mu-agonist efficacy. Because DAMGO exhibited a similar potency in delta(+/+) and delta(-/-) neurons and caused similar levels of internalization, the role for heterodimerization is probably at the level of receptor biosynthesis.
- KNOCKOUT MICE
- SENSORY NEURONS