Opioids are perhaps the most effective analgesics in medicine. However, between 1999 to 2018, over 400,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdose. Excessive opioids make breathing lethally slow and shallow, a side-effect called opioid induced respiratory depression. This doubled-edged sword has sparked the desire to develop novel therapeutics that provide opioid-like analgesia without depressing breathing. One such approach has been the design of so-called 'biased agonists' that signal through some, but not all pathways downstream of the µ-opioid receptor (MOR), the target of morphine and other opioid analgesics. This rationale stems from a study suggesting that MOR-induced ß-arrestin 2 dependent signaling is responsible for opioid respiratory depression, whereas adenylyl cyclase inhibition produces analgesia. To verify this important result that motivated the 'biased agonist' approach, we re-examined breathing in ß-arrestin 2 deficient mice and instead find no connection between ß-arrestin 2 and opioid respiratory depression. This result suggests that any attenuated effect of 'biased agonists' on breathing is through an as-yet defined mechanism.
The data generated in Figures 2-4 are provided in the source files.
- Kevin Yackle
- Kevin Yackle
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All animal experiments were performed in accordance with national and institutional guidelines with standard precautions to minimize animal stress and the number of animals used in each experiment. All animal protocols have been approved by the UCSF 'Office of Research'.approval number AN181239.
- Allan Basbaum, University of California San Francisco, United States
© 2021, Bachmutsky et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by selective vulnerability of distinct cell populations; however, the cause for this specificity remains elusive. Here we show that entorhinal cortex layer 2 (EC2) neurons are unusually vulnerable to prolonged neuronal inactivity compared with neighboring regions of the temporal lobe, and that reelin+ stellate cells connecting EC with the hippocampus are preferentially susceptible within the EC2 population. We demonstrate that neuronal death after silencing can be elicited through multiple independent means of activity inhibition, and that preventing synaptic release, either alone or in combination with electrical shunting, is sufficient to elicit silencing-induced degeneration. Finally, we discovered that degeneration following synaptic silencing is governed by competition between active and inactive cells, which is a circuit refinement process traditionally thought to end early in postnatal life. Our data suggests that the developmental window for wholesale circuit plasticity may extend into adulthood for specific brain regions. We speculate that this sustained potential for remodeling by entorhinal neurons may support lifelong memory but renders them vulnerable to prolonged activity changes in disease.
Human behaviour requires flexible arbitration between actions we do out of habit and actions that are directed towards a specific goal. Drugs that target opioid and dopamine receptors are notorious for inducing maladaptive habitual drug consumption; yet, how the opioidergic and dopaminergic neurotransmitter systems contribute to the arbitration between habitual and goal-directed behaviour is poorly understood. By combining pharmacological challenges with a well-established decision-making task and a novel computational model, we show that the administration of the dopamine D2/3 receptor antagonist amisulpride led to an increase in goal-directed or ‘model-based’ relative to habitual or ‘model-free’ behaviour, whereas the non-selective opioid receptor antagonist naltrexone had no appreciable effect. The effect of amisulpride on model-based/model-free behaviour did not scale with drug serum levels in the blood. Furthermore, participants with higher amisulpride serum levels showed higher explorative behaviour. These findings highlight the distinct functional contributions of dopamine and opioid receptors to goal-directed and habitual behaviour and support the notion that even small doses of amisulpride promote flexible application of cognitive control.