Mitochondrial biogenesis factor PGC-1α suppresses spinal morphine tolerance by reducing mitochondrial superoxide

Yuta Kashiwagi, Hyun Yi, Shue Liu, Keiya Takahashi, Kentaro Hayashi, Daigo Ikegami, Xun Zhu, Jun Gu, Shuanglin Hao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Opioid use disorders (OUDs) have reached an epidemic level in the United States. The opioid epidemic involves illicit opioid use, prescription opioids for analgesia, counterfeit opioids, new psychoactive substances, and diverted opioids. Opioids remain the last option for the treatment of intractable clinical pain, but chronic use of opioids are limited in part due to antinociceptive/analgesic tolerance. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-gamma coactivator-1alpha (PGC-1α), a mitochondrial biogenesis factor can reduce toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in morphine tolerance (MT). Decreased PGC-1α expression has been shown to contribute to various metabolic disorders or neurodegeneration diseases through increasing ROS. We examined the relationship of PGC-1α and ROS in MT. To induce MT, adult Sprague-Dawley rats received intrathecal morphine for 7 days. Mechanical threshold was measured using the von Frey test and thermal latency was examined using the heat plate test. Expression of PGC-1α in the spinal cord dorsal horn (SCDH) was examined using RT-PCR and western blots. Mitochondrial superoxide was detected using MitoSox Red, a mitochondrial superoxide indicator. The antinociceptive effect of recombinant PGC-1α (rPGC-1α) or Mito-Tempol (a mitochondria-targeted superoxide scavenger) was determined using the von Frey test and hot plate test. Furthermore, we examined the effect of rPGC-1α on mitochondrial superoxide using cultured neurons. Our findings include that: (i) spinal MT decreased the expression of spinal PGC-1α in the SCDH neurons; (ii) rPGC-1α increased mechanical threshold and thermal latency in MT animals; (iii) Mito-Tempol reduced MT behavioral response; (iv) rPGC-1α reduced MT-induced mitochondria-targeted superoxide; and (v) cultured neuronal cells treated with TNFα increased mitochondria-targeted superoxide that can be inhibited by rPGC-1α. The present findings suggest that spinal PGC-1α reduce MT through decreasing mitochondria-targeted superoxide in the SCDH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113622
JournalExperimental neurology
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Mitochondria-targeted superoxide
  • Morphine tolerance
  • PGC-1α
  • Superoxide scavenger

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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