Opiates act through a specific receptor to inhibit the striatal adenylate cyclase [ATP pyrophosphate-lyase (cyclizing), EC 126.96.36.199] and stimulate a high-affinity GTPase (EC 3.6.1). The present study analyzes the functions of the striatal adenylate cyclase complex following chronic morphine treatment in the rat. The inhibitory effects of GTP on basal adenylate cyclase activity, between 10-6 and 10-4 M, were reduced. Moreover, the half-maximal inhibitory concentration of the opiate receptor agonist (d-Ala2Met5-enkephalinamide (DAME) on striatal adenylate cyclase activity was increased by about four times, whereas the maximal effect was reduced in membranes from treated rats. In parallel, the half-maximal stimulatory concentration of DAME on GTPase was increased by two times, and the maximal stimulation was reduced from 60 to 25%. Binding studies performed with [3,5-3] DAME (saturation curves) and with [3H]naloxone (competition curves) did not show any change in opiate receptor numbers and affinity. Moreover, the kinetics of the activation of the inhibitory GTP binding protein (Gi) which transduces the opiate receptor effect on adenylate cyclase showed a small but significant delay. Therefore, hypofunction of Gi can be, at least in part, responsible for the observed desensitization by morphine of the opiate-dependent GTPase and adenylate cyclase.
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