Differential effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine on the responses of D2/D3 dopamine receptors

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Abstract

Oxycodone and hydrocodone are opioids which are widely used for pain management and are also commonly misused and abused. The exposure to opioid analgesics has been associated with altered responses of D2-like dopamine receptors (D2DRs). Our recent results suggest that various opioids will differentially modulate the responses of D2DRs. The D2DRs are known to be involved in the pathology of addiction and other mental illnesses, indicating the need to improve our understanding of the effects of opioid analgesics on the responses of the D2DRs. Thus, in this study, we first established equianalgesic oral doses of oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine using the tail withdrawal assay. Then, mice were orally administered (gavage) with the various opioids or saline once daily for 6 days. Twenty-four hours later, the mice were tested for their locomotor response to quinpirole, a D2/D3 dopamine receptor agonist. Mice pretreated with oxycodone showed significantly greater locomotor supersensitivity to quinpirole than did morphine-pretreated mice, while hydrocodone-pretreated mice showed sensitivity in between that of mice treated with morphine and oxycodone. This finding suggests that various opioids differentially modulate the responses of D2DRs. It provides further evidence supporting of the notion that various opioids carry differential risks to the dopamine reward system.

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