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© 2020 The Author(s). Postoperative shivering and cold hypersensitivity are major side effects of acute and chronic opioid treatments respectively. TRPM8 is a cold and menthol-sensitive channel found in a subset of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) nociceptors. Deletion or inhibition of the TRPM8 channel was found to prevent the cold hyperalgesia induced by chronic administration of morphine. Here, we examined the mechanisms by which morphine was able to promote cold hypersensitivity in DRG neurons and transfected HEK cells. Mice daily injected with morphine for 5 days developed cold hyperalgesia. Treatment with morphine did not alter the expressions of cold sensitive TREK-1, TRAAK and TRPM8 in DRGs. However, TRPM8-expressing DRG neurons isolated from morphine-treated mice exhibited hyperexcitability. Sustained morphine treatment in vitro sensitized TRPM8 responsiveness to cold or menthol and reduced activation-evoked desensitization of the channel. Blocking phospholipase C (PLC) as well as protein kinase C beta (PKCβ), but not protein kinase A (PKA) or Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK), restored channel desensitization. Identification of two PKC phosphorylation consensus sites, S1040 and S1041, in the TRPM8 and their site-directed mutation were able to prevent the MOR-induced reduction in TRPM8 desensitization. Our results show that activation of MOR by morphine 1) promotes hyperexcitability of TRPM8-expressing neurons and 2) induces a PKCβ-mediated reduction of TRPM8 desensitization. This MOR-PKCβ dependent modulation of TRPM8 may underlie the onset of cold hyperalgesia caused by repeated administration of morphine. Our findings point to TRPM8 channel and PKCβ as important targets for opioid-induced cold hypersensitivity.
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