AM-251 and rimonabant act as direct antagonists at mu-opioid receptors: implications for opioid/cannabinoid interaction studies.Neuropharmacology. 2012 Oct; 63(5):905-15.N
Mu-opioid and CB1-cannabinoid agonists produce analgesia; however, adverse effects limit use of drugs in both classes. Additive or synergistic effects resulting from concurrent administration of low doses of mu- and CB1-agonists may produce analgesia with fewer side effects. Synergism potentially results from interaction between mu-opioid receptors (MORs) and CB1 receptors (CB1Rs). AM-251 and rimonabant are CB1R antagonist/inverse agonists employed to validate opioid-cannabinoid interactions, presumed to act selectively at CB1Rs. Therefore, the potential for direct action of these antagonists at MORs is rarely considered. This study determined if AM-251 and/or rimonabant directly bind and modulate the function of MORs. Surprisingly, AM-251 and rimonabant, but not a third CB1R inverse agonist AM-281, bind with mid-nanomolar affinity to human MORs with a rank order of affinity (K(i)) of AM-251 (251 nM) > rimonabant (652 nM) > AM281 (2135 nM). AM-251 and rimonabant, but not AM-281, also competitively antagonize morphine induced G-protein activation in CHO-hMOR cell homogenates (K(b) = 719 or 1310 nM, respectively). AM-251 and rimonabant block morphine inhibition of cAMP production, while only AM-251 elicits cAMP rebound in CHO-hMOR cells chronically exposed to morphine. AM-251 and rimonabant (10 mg/kg) attenuate morphine analgesia, whereas the same dose of AM-281 produces little effect. Therefore, in addition to high CB1R affinity, AM-251 and rimonabant bind to MORs with mid-nanomolar affinity and at higher doses may affect morphine analgesia via direct antagonism at MORs. Such CB1-independent of these antagonists effects may contribute to reported inconsistencies when CB1/MOR interactions are examined via pharmacological methods in CB1-knockout versus wild-type mice.