Presynaptic localization of the carboxy-terminus epitopes of the μ opioid receptor splice variants MOR-1C and MOR-1D in the superficial laminae of the rat spinal cord

C. Abbadie, G. W. Pasternak, S. A. Aicher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

73 Scopus citations


Opioids inhibit nociceptive transmission at the level of the spinal cord, possibly through inhibition of neurotransmitter release by presynaptic μ opioid receptors (MORs) thus preventing the activation of ascending pathways and the perception of pain. Most nociceptive primary afferents are unmyelinated fibers containing peptides such as substance P and/or calcitonin gene-related peptide. However, few terminals contain both substance P and MOR. Recently, we identified new carboxy-terminal MOR splice variants that are localized in the superficial laminae of the dorsal horn. We now report the precise cellular distribution of two of these MOR-1 variants, MOR-1C (exon 7/8/9 epitope) and MOR-1D (exon 8/9 epitope), at the ultrastructural level. In the superficial laminae of the dorsal horn, the majority of the labeling of MOR-1C and MOR-1D was found in unmyelinated axons. This distribution contrasts with that of MOR-1 (exon 4 epitope), in which labeling is equally found in dendrites and soma, as well as in axons. The presence of dense core vesicles in many of the MOR-1C-like immunoreactive terminals implies that this splice variant might be involved in presynaptic inhibition of transmitter release from peptide-containing afferents to the dorsal horn. Consistent with this finding, confocal microscopy analyses showed that many MOR-1C profiles in laminae I-II also contained calcitonin gene-related peptide, whereas fewer MOR-1 profiles contained either substance P or calcitonin gene-related peptide in this same region. From these findings we suggest that there are differential distributions of MOR-1 splice variants as well as distinct peptide colocalizations in the dorsal horn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)833-842
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 31 2001



  • Dorsal horn
  • Double labeling
  • Electron microscopy
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Splice variant
  • μ opioid receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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