British journal of pharmacology

Tolerance develops in spinal cord, but not in brain with chronic [Dmt1]DALDA treatment.

PMID 15557286


Previously, we reported that H-2',6'-dimethyltyrosine [Dmt(1)]-d-Arg-Phe-Lys-NH(2) (DALDA), an analogue of the naturally occurring opioid peptide dermorphin, is a highly potent and selective mu receptor agonist with low cross-tolerance to morphine. In the present study, we investigated the effect of treating mice chronically with [Dmt(1)]DALDA. The AD(50) of [Dmt(1)]DALDA (s.c.) increased eight-fold in animals given this drug chronically; in contrast, the AD(50) increased two-fold in mice chronically treated with morphine. The AD(50) of morphine (s.c.) in these [Dmt(1)]DALDA-treated animals was increased more than 120 times, while that of the more selective mu agonist [d-Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly-ol(5)]enkephalin (DAMGO) given intrathecally was increased more than 240 times. However, the AD(50) of DAMGO given intracerebroventricularly was essentially the same in animals treated chronically with [Dmt(1)]DALDA as in naive animals. The dose of naloxone required to precipitate withdrawal in [Dmt(1)]DALDA-treated animals was 20 times lower than that in morphine-tolerant animals. Using real-time quantitative PCR, we found that expression of the mu opioid receptor, delta opioid receptor, preproenkephalin and preprodynorphin genes was upregulated in the brain by [Dmt(1)]DALDA treatment. No significant changes in expression of opioid receptor or opioid peptide genes were detected in the spinal cord of [Dmt(1)]DALDA-treated mice, nor in the brain or spinal cord of morphine-treated mice. We conclude that a high degree of tolerance to [Dmt(1)]DALDA develops in the spinal cord but not brain, and cannot be accounted for by changes in expression of opioid receptors or opioid peptides in these tissues.