Bezard E, Li Q, Hulme H, Fridjonsdottir E, Nilsson A, Pioli E, Andren PE, Crossman AR
J. Neurosci. 40 (35) 6812-6819 [2020-08-26; online 2020-07-20]
Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by severe locomotor deficits and is commonly treated with the dopamine precursor L-DOPA, but its prolonged usage causes dyskinesias referred to as L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia (LID). Several studies in animal models of PD have suggested that dyskinesias are associated with a heightened opioid cotransmitter tone, observations that have led to the notion of a LID-related hyperactive opioid transmission that should be corrected by µ opioid receptor antagonists. Reports that both antagonists and agonists of the µ opioid receptor may alleviate LID severity in primate models of PD and LID, together with the failure of nonspecific antagonist to improve LID in pilot clinical trials in patients, raises doubt about the reliability of the available data on the opioid system in PD and LID. After in vitro characterization of the functional activity at the µ opioid receptor, we selected prototypical agonists, antagonists, and partial agonists at the µ opioid receptor. We then showed that both oral and discrete intracerebral administration of a µ receptor agonist, but not of an antagonist as long thought, ameliorated LIDs in the gold-standard bilateral 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine-lesioned female macaque model of PD and LID. The results call for a reappraisal of opioid pharmacology in the basal ganglia as well as for the development of brain nucleus-targeted µ opioid receptor agonists.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT µ opioid receptors have long been considered as a viable target for alleviating the severity of L-DOPA-induced hyperkinetic side effects, induced by the chronic treatment of Parkinson's disease motor symptoms with L-DOPA. Conflicting results between experimental parkinsonism and Parkinson's disease patients, however, dampened the enthusiasm for the target. Here we reappraise the pharmacology and then demonstrate that both oral and discrete intracerebral administration of a µ receptor agonist, but not of an antagonist as long thought, ameliorates LIDs in the gold-standard bilateral 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine-lesioned macaque model of Parkinson's disease, calling for a reappraisal of the opioid pharmacology as well as for the development of brain nucleus-targeted µ receptor agonists.