098P London, UK
Pharmacology 2016

Differing effects of opioid receptor agonists in human isolated colon

J. Broad, F. Scott, A. J. Palmer, M. Kouassi, S. F. Elahi, G. J. Sanger. National Bowel Research Centre, Neuroscience and Trauma, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, UNITED KINGDOM.


Constipation is a major side effect of the use of receptor agonists (e.g. morphine) as analgesics. There is interest in developing opioid analgesics that do not cause constipation, perhaps acting through other opioid receptors (κ, δ, NOP receptors). In animal studies both and κ receptors decrease acetylcholine release [1], but in human colon it is unclear whether the neurophysiological responses to, or nerve subtypes modulated by, and κ receptor activation are similar.


Mucosa-free macroscopically normal circular muscle strips of human colon, obtained from elective surgeries following informed consent, were suspended in tissue baths containing Krebs solution for isometric recording. Electrical field stimulation (EFS) was applied (5Hz, 0.5ms, 50V, 10s, 1 min). Data were analysed using 3-parameter concentration response curves (GraphPad Prism 5) and expressed as medians (ranges) or meanS.E.M. Drugs were applied non-cumulatively; n=patients.


379 strips were obtained from 37 patients (67 (4186 years old)); 16 ascending (187 strips) and 21 descending colons (192 strips). In ascending and descending strips contractions (in 60% and 81% respectively; abolished by atropine 1M; n=4,4) or relaxations (abolished by LNAME 300M; n=6,7) were observed during EFS, followed by aftercontractions on termination of EFS (84% and 93% of strips); all were abolished by tetrodotoxin 1M. Aftercontractions were inhibited by atropine 1M (by 3810% and 4912%) and attenuated further by NK1-3 antagonists (L732138 1M, GR159897 100nM, SB235375 100nM), leaving a residual contraction (5111% and 225% of initial response, n=5,5). In the ascending colon the receptor agonists DAMGO or loperamide had no consistent effects on contractions during EFS (DAMGO 10M changed responses during EFS by -614%, n=3; loperamide 10M by -1910%, n=4), but both DAMGO 100pM-10M (pEC50=6.50.6, Emax=6010%, n=4-5) and loperamide 100pM-10M (pEC50=6.21.1, Emax=2514%, n=4-5) concentration-dependently inhibited the aftercontractions. Similar effects were observed in the descending colon. In contrast, the κ receptor agonist ICI204448 100pM-1M inhibited contractions during EFS (ascending pEC50=8.90.6, Emax=9015, n=4) but had no consistent effects on the aftercontractions [2].


Here we have shown differential effects of and κ receptor agonists on human colonic neuromuscular contractions, despite the involvement of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in both response phenotypes, perhaps due to selective receptor expression on enteric motor or extrinsic nerve populations. Further study of opioid receptor actions on human colonic motility may assist with the development of treatments for colonic motility disorders.


1. Cherubini and North, (1985) PNAS: Mar;82(6):1860-3

2. Broad et al. doi:10.1038/srep30797