Upregulation of Mu Opioid Receptors by Voluntary Morphine Administration in Drinking Water


Morphine was provided to rats in drinking water for 21 days. Profound analgesic tolerance was detected both in hot-plate and tail-flick tests. The density of [3H]DAMGO binding sites increased by 76% in spinal cord membranes due to morphine exposure compared to those in opioid naive animals. Slightly augmented [3H]DAMGO binding was measured in the synaptic plasma membranes, with a concomitant decrease in the microsomal membranes, of morphine tolerant/dependent brains. These observations suggest that the regulation of spinal mu opioid receptors might be different from those in the brain. It is emphasized that the molecular changes underlying tolerance/dependence are influenced by several factors, such as the tissue or subcellular fractions used, besides the obvious importance of the route of drug administration. Results obtained after voluntary morphine intake further support the growing number of experimental data that chronic morphine does not internalize/downregulate the mu opioid receptors in the central nervous system.


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The interest and helpful comments of Mária Wollemann are highly appreciated. Thanks are due to Mrs. Ildikó Dobos for excellent technical assistance. This work was supported by OTKA T-033062, T-34741 and ETT 042/2001 research funds.

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Correspondence to Mária Szűcs.

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Dedicated to Professor Maria Wollemann on the occasion of her 80th birthday.

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Fábián, G., Tombor, B., Németh, I. et al. Upregulation of Mu Opioid Receptors by Voluntary Morphine Administration in Drinking Water. BIOLOGIA FUTURA 54, 157–166 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1556/ABiol.54.2003.2.4

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  • Opioid
  • upregulation
  • tolerance
  • morphine
  • spinal cord