Ligands that interact with putative MOR-mGluR5 heteromer in mice with inflammatory pain produce potent antinociception

… Respiratory depression. Respiratory depression was measured in mice using the Mouse
Ox (small animal oximeter from STARR Life Sciences Corp). A CollarClip (unanesthetized
neck sensor) for mice was used as the site for measuring the data. … The low effectiveness of morphine and related mu opioid analgesics for the treatment of chronic inflammatory pain is a result of opioid-induced release of proinflammatory cytokines and glutamate that lower the pain threshold. In this regard, the use of opioids with metabotropic glutamate-5 receptor (mGluR5) antagonist has been reported to increase the efficacy of morphine and prevent the establishment of adverse effects during chronic use. Given the presence of opioid receptors (MORs) and mGluR5 in glia and neurons, together with reports that suggest coexpressed MOR/mGluR5 receptors in cultured cells associate as a heteromer, the possibility that such a heteromer could be a target in vivo was addressed by the design and synthesis of a series of bivalent ligands that contain mu opioid agonist and mGluR5 antagonist pharmacophores linked through spacers of varying length (10–24 atoms). The series was evaluated for antinociception using the tail-flick and von Frey assays in mice pretreated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or in mice with bone cancer. In LPS-pretreated mice, MMG22 (4c, 22-atom spacer) was the most potent member of the series (intrathecal ED50 ∼9 fmol per mouse), whereas in untreated mice its ED50 was more than three orders of magnitude higher. As members of the series with shorter or longer spacers have ≥500-fold higher ED50s in LPS-treated mice, the exceptional potency of MMG22 may be a result of the optimal bridging of protomers in a putative MOR-mGluR5 heteromer. The finding that MMG22 possesses a >106 therapeutic ratio suggests that it may be an excellent candidate for treatment of chronic, intractable pain via spinal administration.