Structure-constrained endomorphin analogs display differential antinociceptive mechanisms in mice after spinal administration
We previously reported a series of novel endomorphin analogs with unnatural amino acid modifications. These analogs display good binding affinity and functional activity toward the μ opioid receptor (MOP). In the present study, we further investigated the spinal antinociceptive activity of these compounds. The analogs were potent in several nociceptive models. Opioid antagonists and antibodies against several endogenous opioid peptides were used to determine the mechanisms of action of these peptides. Intrathecal pretreatment with naloxone and β-funaltrexamine (β-FNA) effectively inhibited analog-induced analgesia, demonstrating that activity of the analogs is regulated primarily through MOP. Antinociception induced by analog 2 through 4 was not reversed by δ opioid receptor (DOP) or κ opioid receptor (KOP) antagonist; antibodies against dynorphin-A (1–17), dynorphin-B (1–13), and Leu5/Met5-enkephalin had no impact on the antinociceptive effects of these analogs. In contrast, antinociceptive effects induced by a spinal injection of the fluorine substituted analog 1 were significantly reversed by KOP antagonism. Furthermore, intrathecal pretreatment with antibodies against dynorphin-B (1–13) attenuated the antinociceptive effect of analog 1. These results indicate that the antinociceptive activity exerted by intrathecally-administered analog 1 is mediated, in part, through KOP with increased release of dynorphin-B (1–13). The chemical modifications used in the present study may serve as a useful tool to gain insight into the mechanisms of endomorphins activity.