Antinociceptive action of NOP and opioid receptor agonists in the mouse orofacial formalin test
Nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) modulates several biological functions, including pain transmission via selective activation of a specific receptor named NOP. The aim of this study was the investigation of the antinociceptive properties of NOP agonists and their interaction with opioids in the trigeminal territory. The orofacial formalin (OFF) test in mice was used to investigate the antinociceptive potential associated to the activation of NOP and opioid receptors. Mice subjected to OFF test displayed the typical biphasic nociceptive response and sensitivity to opioid and NSAID drugs. Mice knockout for the NOP gene displayed a robust pronociceptive phenotype. The NOP selective agonist Ro 65–6570 (0.1–1 mg kg−1) and morphine (0.1–10 mg kg−1) elicited dose dependent antinociceptive effects in the OFF with the alkaloid showing larger effects; the isobologram analysis of their actions demonstrated an additive type of interaction. The mixed NOP/opioid receptor agonist cebranopadol elicited potent (0.01–0.1 mg kg−1) and robust antinociceptive effects. In the investigated dose range, all drugs did not modify the motor performance of the mice in the rotarod test. Collectively the results of this study demonstrated that selective NOP agonists and particularly mixed NOP/opioid agonists are worthy of development as innovative drugs to treat painful conditions of the trigeminal territory.