Multiple sclerosis patients typically experience increased pain that is relatively insensitive to opiate treatment. The mechanistic basis for this increased nociception is currently poorly understood. In the present study, we utilized the Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) model of MS to examine possible changes in spinal cord opioid receptor mRNA over the course of disease progression. TMEV infection led to significantly decreased mu, delta and kappa opioid receptor mRNA expression as analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR in both male and female mice at days 90, 150 and 180 post-infection (PI). Since opioid receptor mRNA expression decreased in TMEV mice, we examined whether opiate analgesia is also altered. TMEV infected female mice had significantly decreased opiate analgesia in thermal nociceptive tests beginning at day 90 PI, while TMEV-infected male mice did not display significantly decreased opiate analgesia until day 120 PI. The novel finding that opioid receptor expression is significantly decreased in the spinal cord of TMEV mice could explain the increased nociception and loss of opiate analgesia observed in both TMEV mice and multiple sclerosis patients.
- Multiple sclerosis
- Opioid analgesia
- Opioid receptor
- Spinal cord
- Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus