Estrogen facilitates and the kappa and mu opioid receptors mediate antinociception produced by intrathecal (−)-pentazocine in female rats

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Pentazocine, a mixed-action kappa opioid receptor (KOR) agonist, has high affinity for both KOR and the mu opioid receptor (MOR), and has been shown clinically to alleviate pain with a pronounced effect in women. However, whether local application of pentazocine in the spinal cord produces antinociception and the contribution of spinal KOR and MOR in mediating the effect of pentazocine in female rats remain unknown. Also, it is not known whether pentazocine-induced antinociception in females is estrogen-dependent. Hence, we investigated whether intrathecal (i.t.) (−)-pentazocine produces thermal antinociception and whether estrogen modulates the drug effect in female rats. Only the highest dose of pentazocine (500 nmol) was effective in producing antinociception in ovariectomized (OVX) rats. In contrast, pentazocine produced antinociception in estradiol-treated ovariectomized females (OVX+E) rats with the lowest effective dose being 250 nmol. KOR or MOR mediated the effect of the lowest effective dose in OVX+E rats; however, MOR blockade extended the KOR-mediated effect of 500 nmol pentazocine in both groups. In normally cycling females, the 250 nmol dose was effective in producing antinociception at the proestrous, but not at the diestrous stage of the estrous cycle. Thus, estrogen facilitates and KOR or MOR mediates. the antinociceptive effect of i.t. (−)-pentazocine in female rats. Selective doses of (−)-pentazocine, with or without MOR blockade, may have a therapeutic benefit.

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