A functional link between T-type calcium channels and μ-opioid receptor expression in adult primary sensory neurons

Zi Zhen Wu, You Qing Cai, Hui Lin Pan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The μ-opioid receptor agonists have a preferential effect on nociception in adults but their analgesic effect is less selective in neonates. Here we presented our finding that the μ-opioid receptor agonists had no effect on high voltage-activated Ca2+ channels (HVACCs) in adult dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons that exhibited a prominent T-type Ca2+ current. We also determined the mechanisms underlying the μ-opioid agonists' lack of effect on HVACCs in these neurons. The μ-opioid agonist [d-Ala 2,N-Me-Phe4,Gly-ol5]-enkephalin (DAMGO), morphine, and morphine 6-β-D-glucuronide had no effect on either T-type or HVACC currents despite the presence of a large N-type Ca2+ current in neurons with T-type Ca2+ currents. DAMGO still had no effect on HVACC currents when T-type Ca2+ channels were blocked in these neurons. However, intracellular dialysis of GTP-γ-S to activate G proteins significantly attenuated HVACC currents. DRG neurons with T-type Ca 2+ currents showed little responses to capsaicin. Single-cell RT-PCR analysis revealed that the μ-opioid receptor mRNA was present only in adult DRG neurons lacking prominent T-type Ca2+ currents. In the neonatal DRG, DAMGO inhibited HVACC currents in 31% neurons with T-type Ca2+ currents. The μ-opioid receptor mRNA was detected in all neurons without T-type Ca2+ currents and also in 28.6% of neurons with T-type Ca 2+ currents in the neonatal DRG. Our study provides novel information that adult DRG neurons with prominent T-type Ca2+ currents do not express μ-opioid receptors. Expression of T-type Ca2+ (Ca V3.2) channels and μ-opioid receptors may be developmentally co-regulated as some DRG neurons differentiate toward becoming nociceptive neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)867-878
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Ca3.2
  • G protein-coupled receptors
  • Nociceptors
  • Opioid analgesia
  • T-type calcium channels
  • Voltage-gated calcium channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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