Hormones, neurotransmitters, growth factors, receptors, and signaling: Inflammation-associated changes in DOR expression and function in the mouse colon

Jesse J. Dicello, Ayame Saito, Pradeep Rajasekhar, Emily M. Eriksson, Rachel M. McQuade, Cameron J. Nowell, Benjamin W. Sebastian, Jakub Fichna, Nicholas A. Veldhuis, Meritxell Canals, Nigel W. Bunnett, Simona E. Carbone, Daniel P. Poole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Endoge-nous opioids activate opioid receptors (ORs) in the enteric nervous system to control intestinal motility and secretion. The μ-OR mediates the deleterious side effects of opioid analgesics, including constipation, respiratory depression, and addiction. Although the δ-OR (DOR) is a promising target for analgesia, the function and regulation of DOR in the colon are poorly understood. This study provides evidence that endogenous opioids activate DOR in myenteric neurons that may regulate colonic motility. The DOR agonists DADLE, deltorphin II, and SNC80 inhibited electrically evoked contractions and induced neurogenic contractions in the mouse colon. Electrical, chemical, and mechanical stimulation of the colon evoked the release of endogenous opioids, which stimulated endocytosis of DOR in the soma and proximal neurites of myenteric neurons of transgenic mice expressing DOR fused to enhanced green fluorescent protein. In contrast, DOR was not internalized in nerve fibers within the circular muscle. Administration of dextran sulfate sodium induced acute colitis, which was accompanied by DOR endocytosis and an increased density of DOR-positive nerve fibers within the circular muscle. The potency with which SNC80 inhibited neurogenic contractions was significantly enhanced in the inflamed colon. This study demonstrates that DOR-expressing neurons in the mouse colon can be activated by exogenous and endogenous opioids. Activated DOR traffics to endosomes and inhibits neurogenic motility of the colon. DOR signaling is enhanced during intestinal inflammation. This study demonstrates functional expression of DOR by myenteric neurons and supports the therapeutic targeting of DOR in the enteric nervous system. NEW & NOTEWORTHY DOR is activated during physiologically relevant reflex stimulation. Agonist-evoked DOR endocytosis is spatially and temporally regulated. A significant proportion of DOR is internalized in myenteric neurons during inflammation. The relative proportion of all myenteric neurons that expressed DOR and the overlap with the nNOS-positive population are increased in inflammation. DOR-specific innervation of the circular muscle is increased in inflammation, and this is consistent with enhanced responsiveness to the DOR agonist SNC80.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G544-G559
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Endocytosis
  • Enteric nervous system
  • G protein-coupled receptor
  • Intestinal motility
  • Opioid receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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