Decreased spinal endomorphin-2 contributes to mechanical allodynia in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats

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Diabetic neuropathic pain (DNP) plays a major role in decreased life quality of diabetes patients, however, the neural mechanisms underlying DNP remain unclear. Endomorphins are the endogenous ligands for mu-opioid receptor. There is increasing evidence implicating the involvement of spinal endomorphin-2 (EM2) in neuropathic pain. In this study, using a streptozotocin induced diabetic rat model that displayed obvious mechanical allodynia, it was found that the expression of spinal EM2 was significantly decreased in DNP rats. While intrathecal administration of exogenous EM2 attenuated mechanical allodynia in DNP rats, the mu-opioid receptor antagonist β-funaltrexamine facilitated these events. It was found that the reduction in spinal EM2 was mediated by increased activity of dipeptidylpeptidase IV, possibly as a consequence of diabetes-induced oxidative stress. Taken together, our results provide the first evidence that the reduction in the level of an endogenous opioid in primary afferents was significantly associated with DNP. This indicates that the chronic pain associated with DNP might be due to the loss of an inhibitory effect on pain signal transmission.

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