Endomorphin analogs containing unnatural amino acids have demonstrated potent analgesic effects in our previous studies. In the present study, the differences in antinociception and the mechanisms thereof for analogs 1-3 administered intracerebroventricularly and intrathecally were explored. All analogs at different routes of administration produced potent analgesia compared to the parent peptide endomorphin-1. Multiple antagonists and antibodies were used to explore the mechanisms of action of these analogs, and it was inferred that analogs 1-3 stimulated the µ opioid receptor to induce antinociception. Moreover, the antibody data suggested that analog 2 may induce the release of immunoreactive [Leu]-enkephaline and [Met]-enkephaline to produce a secondary component of antinociception at the spinal level and analog 3 may stimulate the the release of immunoreactive [Met]-enkephaline at the spinal level. Finally, analogs 2 and 3 produced no acute tolerance in the spinal cord. We hypothesize that the unique characteristics of the endomorphin analogs result from their capacities to stimulate the release of endogenous antinociceptive substances.
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