Nociception increases during opioid infusion in opioid receptor triple knock-out mice

A. Juni, G. Klein, J. E. Pintar, B. Kest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Opioids are extensively used analgesics yet can paradoxically increase pain sensitivity in humans and rodents. This hyperalgesia is extensively conceptualized to be a consequence of opioid receptor activity, perhaps providing an adaptive response to analgesia, and to utilize N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. These assumptions were tested here in opioid receptor triple knock-out (KO) mice lacking all three genes encoding opioid receptors (μ, δ, and κ) by comparing their thermal nociceptive responses to the opioids morphine and oxymorphone with those of B6129F1 controls. Injecting acute opioid bolus doses in controls caused maximal analgesia that was completely abolished in KO mice, confirming the functional consequence of the KO mouse opioid receptor deficiency. Continuous opioid infusion by osmotic pump in control mice also initially caused several consecutive days of analgesia that was shortly thereafter followed by several consecutive days of hyperalgesia. In contrast, continuously infusing KO mice with opioids caused no detectable analgesic response, but only immediate and steady declines in nociceptive thresholds culminating in several days of unremitting hyperalgesia. Finally, injecting the non-competitive NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801 during opioid infusion markedly reversed hyperalgesia in control but not KO mice. These data demonstrate that sustained morphine and oxymorphone delivery causes hyperalgesia independently of prior or concurrent opioid or NMDA receptor activity or opioid analgesia, indicating the contribution of mechanisms outside of current conceptions, and are inconsistent with proposals of hyperalgesia as a causative factor of opioid analgesic tolerance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-444
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 29 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • NMDA
  • hyperalgesia
  • knock-out mice
  • morphine
  • nociception
  • oxymorphone


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