Modulation of Opioid Actions by Nitric Oxide Signaling

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Nitric oxide (NO) plays pivotal roles in controlling physiological functions, participates in pathophysiological intervention, and is involved in mechanisms underlying beneficial or untoward actions of therapeutic agents. Endogenous nitric oxide is formed by three isoforms of nitric oxide synthase: endothelial, neurogenic and inducible. The former two are constitutively present mainly in the endothelium and nervous system, respectively, and the latter one is induced by lipopolysaccharides or cytokines mainly in mitochondria and glial cells. Constitutively formed nitric oxide modulates the actions of morphine and related analgesics by either enhancing or reducing antinociception. Tolerance to and dependence on morphine or its withdrawal syndrome are likely prevented by nitric oxide synthase inhibition. Information concerning modulation of morphine actions by nitric oxide is undoubtedly useful in establishing new strategies for efficient antinociceptive treatment and for minimizing noxious and unintended reactions.

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