Neurotensin (NT) exerts naloxone-insensitive antinociceptive action through its binding to both NTS and NTS receptors and NT analogs provide stronger pain relief than morphine on a molecular basis. Here, we examined the analgesic/adverse effect profile of a new NT(8-13) derivative denoted JMV2009, in which the Pro residue was substituted by a silicon-containing unnatural amino acid silaproline. We first report the synthesis and in vitro characterization (receptor-binding affinity, functional activity and stability) of JMV2009. We next examined its analgesic activity in a battery of acute, tonic and chronic pain models. We finally evaluated its ability to induce adverse effects associated with chronic opioid use, such as constipation and analgesic tolerance or related to NTS activation, like hypothermia. In in vitro assays, JMV2009 exhibited high binding affinity for both NTS and NTS, improved proteolytic resistance as well as agonistic activities similar to NT, inducing sustained activation of p42/p44 MAPK and receptor internalization. Intrathecal injection of JMV2009 produced dose-dependent antinociceptive responses in the tail-flick test and almost completely abolished the nociceptive-related behaviors induced by chemical somatic and visceral noxious stimuli. Likewise, increasing doses of JMV2009 significantly reduced tactile allodynia and weight bearing deficits in nerve-injured rats. Importantly, repeated agonist treatment did not result in the development of analgesic tolerance. Furthermore, JMV2009 did not cause constipation and was ineffective in inducing hypothermia. These findings suggest that NT drugs can act as an effective opioid-free medication for the management of pain or can serve as adjuvant analgesics to reduce the opioid adverse effects.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.