Differential in vivo potencies of naltrexone and 6beta-naltrexol in the monkey

Author(s): Ko MC, Divin MF, Lee H, Woods JH, Traynor JR


6beta-Naltrexol is the major metabolite of the opioid receptor antagonist, naltrexone, in humans. However, there are no functional studies of 6beta-naltrexol in primates. The aim of this study was to compare the in vitro and in vivo potencies of naltrexone and 6beta-naltrexol in rhesus monkeys. Affinity and potency were determined using radioligand displacement and stimulation of 5'-O-(3-[(35)S]thio)triphosphate ([(35)S]GTPgammaS) binding in monkey brain membranes. In vivo apparent pA(2) analysis was applied to compare the mu-opioid receptor (MOR) antagonist potency of both compounds in nondependent monkeys. In addition, the potencies of both compounds were determined in precipitating withdrawal manifested by increased respiratory parameters in acute morphine-dependent monkeys. In vitro assays revealed that naltrexone displayed 2-fold higher affinity and potency than 6beta-naltrexol for the MOR binding site and for MOR agonist-stimulated [(35)S]GTPgammaS binding, respectively. 6beta-Naltrexol (0.32-3.2 mg/kg) dose-dependently produced parallel rightward shifts of the dose-response curve of alfentanil-induced antinociception. Nevertheless, the apparent pA(2) value of 6beta-naltrexol (6.5) was 100-fold less potent than that of naltrexone (8.5) determined previously. 6beta-Naltrexol was also less potent than naltrexone in antagonizing other MOR-mediated effects including respiratory depression and itch/scratching. Naltrexone (0.0032-0.032 mg/kg) and 6beta-naltrexol (0.32-3.2 mg/kg) retained the same potency difference in precipitating withdrawal to a similar degree. Furthermore, 6beta-naltrexol failed to block naltrexone-precipitated withdrawal in morphine-dependent monkeys. These results indicate that naltrexone and 6beta-naltrexol display similar pharmacological actions with a large in vivo potency difference in monkeys such that 6beta-naltrexol may play a minimal role in the therapeutic or antagonist effects of naltrexone in primates.

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