Selective blockade of the OGF–OGFr pathway by naltrexone accelerates fibroblast proliferation and wound healing

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Naltrexone (NTX) is an opioid receptor antagonist that acts at classical and non-classical opioid receptors including the opioid growth factor receptor (OGFr). Animal models of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as normal rodents, have shown that topical NTX enhances the healing rates of corneal epithelium and full-thickness cutaneous wounds. The mechanism of this general opioid antagonist on growth, and in particular the specific receptor pathway involved, is not understood. Tissue culture studies using NIH 3T3 fibroblasts and primary rat auricular fibroblasts were established to evaluate growth following opioid receptor antagonist treatment. Treatment of cells with CTOP, naltrindole, or nalmefene, selective antagonists for mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors, respectively, did not accelerate cell replication. Addition of the classical opioid receptor peptides DAMGO, DPDPE, or EKC did not alter cell growth, suggesting that the classical opioid receptors were not involved in cutaneous wound healing. However, NTX (10-6M) increased the growth of NIH 3T3 fibroblasts in culture over a 96-h period, and the specific ligand OGF decreased cell growth, supporting that the OGF-OGFr axis is tonically active and constitutively expressed in fibroblasts, the primary cell type in granulation tissue of the skin. Transfection of NIH 3T3 cells with OGFr siRNA reduced receptor protein; subsequent treatment with NTX did not accelerate cell proliferation. These data indicate that blockade of the OGFr pathway enhances proliferation of fibroblasts in vitro, and in a primary culture of auricular fibroblasts, suggesting that the effect of NTX on growth is mediated through the OGF-OGFr axis. Finally, antagonists for classical opioid receptors as well as NTX were topically applied to cutaneous wounds in type 1 diabetic rats; only NTX accelerated wound closure. These studies indicate that the mechanistic pathway underlying the effects of NTX to enhance cutaneous wound closure in diabetic and nondiabetic subjects is specific blockade of the OGF–OGFr regulatory axis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1300-1309
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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