Ethanol reversal of oxycodone tolerance in dorsal root ganglia neurons

Joanna C. Jacob*, Kensuke Sakakibara, Ryan A. Mischel, Graeme Henderson, William L. Dewey, Hamid I. Akbarali

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Oxycodone is a semisynthetic opioid compound that is widely prescribed, used, and abused today, and has a well-established role in shaping the current opioid epidemic. Previously, we have shown that tolerance develops to the antinociceptive and respiratory depressive effects of oxycodone in mice, and that a moderate dose of acute ethanol or a protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor reversed that tolerance. To investigate further if tolerance was occurring through neuronal mechanisms, our aims for this study were to assess the effects of acute and prolonged oxycodone in isolated dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons and to determine if this tolerance was reversed by either ethanol or a PKC inhibitor. We found that an acute exposure to 3 mM oxycodone reduced neuronal excitability, as measured by increased threshold potentials and reduced action potential amplitude, without eliciting measurable changes in resting membrane potential. Exposure to 10 mM oxycodone for 18–24 hours prevented oxycodone’s effect on neuronal excitability, indicative of tolerance development. The development of opioid tolerance was mitigated in DRG neurons from b-arrestin 2 knockout mice. Oxycodone tolerance was reversed in isolated DRG neurons by the acute application of either ethanol (20 mM) or the PKC inhibitor, bisindolylmaleimide XI hydrochloride (Bis XI), when a challenge of 3 mM oxycodone significantly reduced neuronal excitability following prolonged exposure. Through these studies, we concluded that oxycodone acutely reduced neuronal excitability, tolerance developed to this effect, and reversal of that tolerance occurred at the level of a single neuron, suggesting that reversal of oxycodone tolerance by either ethanol or Bis XI involves cellular mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-426
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Pharmacology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


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