Delayed postoperative latent pain sensitization revealed by the systemic administration of opioid antagonists in mice

Ana Campillo, David Cabañero, Asunción Romero, Paula García-Nogales, Margarita María Puig

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50 Citations (Scopus)


The long-lasting post-surgical changes in nociceptive thresholds in mice, indicative of latent pain sensitization, were studied. The contribution of kappa opioid and N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors was assessed by the administration of nor-binaltorphimine or MK-801; dynorphin levels in the spinal cord were also determined. Animals underwent a plantar incision and/or a subcutaneous infusion of remifentanil (80 μg/kg), and mechanical thresholds (von Frey) were evaluated at different times. On day 21, after complete recovery of mechanical thresholds and healing of the wound, one of the following drugs was administered subcutaneously: (-)-naloxone (1 mg/kg), (+)-naloxone (1 mg/kg), naloxone-methiodide (3 mg/kg), or nor-binaltorphimine (5 mg/kg). Another group received subcutaneous MK-801 (0.15 mg/kg) before nor-binaltorphimine administration. Dynorphin on day 21 was determined in the spinal cord by immunoassay. In mice receiving remifentanil during surgery, the administration of (-)-naloxone or nor-binaltorphimine induced significant hyperalgesia even 5 months after manipulation. Nociceptive thresholds remained unaltered after (+)-naloxone or naloxone-methiodide. On day 21 after manipulation, the administration of MK-801 prevented nor-binaltorphimine-induced hyperalgesia. No changes in dynorphin levels were observed before or after opioid antagonist administration. In conclusion, surgery produced latent pain sensitization evidenced by opioid antagonist-precipitated hyperalgesia. The effect was stereospecific, centrally originated, and mediated by kappa opioid receptors. The blockade of nor-binaltorphimine-induced hyperalgesia by MK-801, suggests that NMDA receptors are also involved. Our results show for the first time that surgery induces latent, long-lasting changes in the processing of nociceptive information that can be induced by non-nociceptive stimuli such as the administration of opioid antagonists. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-96
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2011


  • Dynorphin
  • Kappa opioid receptor
  • Latent pain sensitization
  • Opioid
  • Postoperative pain
  • Remifentanil


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