One emerging strategy to address the opioid crisis is the development of mu opioid receptor (MOR) ligands that preferentially signal the G-protein vs. β-arrestin pathway. The present study compared the relative potency and effectiveness of two G-protein biased (GPB)-MOR ligands TRV130 and SR-14968 to five unbiased MOR ligands (NAQ, nalbuphine, buprenorphine, morphine, and methadone) on therapeutic-related (e.g. antinociception) and abuse-related (e.g. discriminative stimulus effects) endpoints. Male and female rats were tested in a warm water tail-withdrawal procedure (50 °C) or trained to discriminate fentanyl (0.04 mg/kg, SC) from saline in a two-lever food-reinforced discrimination procedure. TRV130 and SR-14968 were approximately two-fold more potent to produce fentanyl stimulus effects vs. antinociception. Morphine, fentanyl, and methadone were significantly more potent in the fentanyl discrimination vs. tail withdrawal procedure. In addition, maximum antinociceptive and discriminative stimulus effects of fixed-proportion fentanyl/naltrexone mixtures (1:0.018, 1:0.054, 1:0.18, 1:0.3, and 1:0.54) were used to quantify 1) the relative in vivo efficacy of the two GPB-MOR agonists and five unbiased MOR ligands, and 2) potential species differences in MOR ligand effects between rats and monkeys. The efficacy-effect function generated from the fentanyl/naltrexone mixtures stratified the five unbiased ligands consistent with agonist-stimulated GTPγS binding (NAQ = nalbuphine < buprenorphine < morphine < methadone). However, TRV130 and SR-14968 produced greater antinociception and less fentanyl-like stimulus effects than was predicted. Furthermore, there was a significant positive correlation between rat and monkey antinociceptive effects. Overall, these results demonstrate GPB-MOR agonists produce undesirable abuse-related effects, albeit with slightly better potency and efficacy ratios compared to unbiased agonists.
Effectiveness comparisons of G-protein biased and unbiased mu opioid receptor ligands in warm water tail-withdrawal and drug discrimination in male and female rats
Schwienteck, K. L., Faunce, K. E., Rice, K. C., Obeng, S., Zhang, Y., Blough, B. E., Grim, T. W., Negus, S. S., & Banks, M. L. (2019). Effectiveness comparisons of G-protein biased and unbiased mu opioid receptor ligands in warm water tail-withdrawal and drug discrimination in male and female rats. Neuropharmacology, 150, 200-209. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2019.01.020