Accessibility of axonal G protein coupled mu-opioid receptors requires conceptual changes of axonal membrane targeting for pain modulation
The mechanisms of axonal trafficking and membrane targeting are well established for sodium channels, which are the principle targets for perineurally applied local anaesthetics. However, they have not been thoroughly investigated for G protein coupled receptors such as mu-opioid receptors (MOR). Focusing on these axonal mechanisms, we found that axonal MOR functionality is quite distinct in two different pain states, i.e. hindpaw inflammation and nerve injury. We observed axonal membrane MOR binding and functional G protein coupling exclusively at sites of CCI nerve injury. Moreover at these axonal membrane sites, MOR exhibited extensive co-localization with the membrane proteins SNAP and Na/K-ATPase as well as NGF-dependent enhanced lipid rafts and L1CAM anchoring proteins. Silencing endogenous L1CAM with intrathecal L1CAM specific siRNA, disrupting lipid rafts with the perineurial cholesterol-sequestering agent MβCD, as well as suppressing NGF receptor activation with the perineurial NGF receptor inhibitor K252a abrogated MOR axonal membrane integration, functional coupling, and agonist-elicited antinociception at sites of nerve injury. These findings suggest that local conceptual changes resulting from nerve injury are required for the establishment of functional axonal membrane MOR. Axonal integration and subsequent accessibility of functionally coupled MOR are of great relevance particularly for patients suffering from severe pain due to nerve injury or tumour infiltration.