Excitatory and inhibitory effects of opiates in the rat vas deferens: a dual mechanism of opiate action

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Science  03 Oct 1980:
Vol. 210, Issue 4465, pp. 95-97
DOI: 10.1126/science.6158098


Both natural (-)-morphine and its unnatural enantiomer (+)-morphine exert an excitatory action on electrically stimulated contractions of rat vas deferens. Preexposure to (-)-morphine results in cross-tolerance to the inhibitory action of beta-endorphin. (-)-Naloxone and its stereoisomer (+)-naloxone also exert an excitatory action, but only (-)-naloxone bocks the inhibtory action of beta-endorphin. Thus morphine exerts a dual action on a peripheral organ: one an inhibitory action mediated by the stereospecific endorphin receptor that is blocked stereospecifically by naloxone, the other an excitatory action mediated by a nonstereospecific receptor that is not blocked by naloxone. The opiate abstinence syndrome is seen as due to the unmasking of the excitatory action of opiates when its concomitant inhibitory influence is removed by selective blockade by naloxone or weakened by selective tolerance. The view that the rat vas deferens is devoid of morphine receptors is now seen as arising from a reverse example of morphine's dual action: the masking of the inhibitory action of morphine by its concomitant and more potent excitatory action.