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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Agonist-selective endocytosis of mu opioid receptor by neurons in vivo.

Opiate alkaloids are potent analgesics that exert multiple pharmacological effects in the nervous system by activating G protein-coupled receptors. Receptor internalization upon stimulation may be important for desensitization and resensitization, which affect cellular responsiveness to ligands. Here, we investigated the agonist-induced internalization of the mu opioid receptor ( MOR) in vivo by using the guinea pig ileum as a model system and immunohistochemistry with an affinity-purified antibody to the C terminus of rat MOR. Antibody specificity was confirmed by the positive staining of human embryonic kidney 293 cells transfected with epitope-tagged MOR cDNA, by the lack of staining of cells transfected with the delta or kappa receptor cDNA, and by the abolition of staining when the MOR antibody was preadsorbed with the MOR peptide fragment. Abundant MOR immunoreactivity (MOR-IR) was localized to the cell body, dendrites, and axonal processes of myenteric neurons. Immunostaining was primarily confined to the plasma membrane of cell bodies and processes. Within 15 min of an intraperitoneal injection of the opiate agonist etorphine, intense MOR-IR was present in vesicle-like structures, which were identified as endosomes by confocal microscopy. At 30 min, MOR-IR was throughout the cytoplasm and in perinuclear vesicles. MOR-IR was still internalized at 120 min. Agonist-induced endocytosis was completely inhibited by the opiate antagonist naloxone. Interestingly, morphine, a high-affinity MOR agonist, did not cause detectable internalization, but it partially inhibited the etorphine-induced MOR endocytosis. These results demonstrate the occurrence of agonist-selective MOR endocytosis in neurons naturally expressing this receptor in vivo and suggest the existence of different mechanisms regulating cellular responsiveness to ligands.[1]


  1. Agonist-selective endocytosis of mu opioid receptor by neurons in vivo. Sternini, C., Spann, M., Anton, B., Keith, D.E., Bunnett, N.W., von Zastrow, M., Evans, C., Brecha, N.C. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (1996) [Pubmed]
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