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Delta Opioid activation of the Mitogen-activated protein kinase cascade does not require transphosphorylation of Receptor Tyrosine Kinases

H Kenneth Kramer12*, Irma Onoprishvili2, Matthew L Andria2, Kayane Hanna2, Karina Sheinkman2, Lisa B Haddad2 and Eric J Simon23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Science, Fordham University, Larkin Hall-Room 160, 440 East Fordham Road, Bronx, NY 14440, USA

2 Departments of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue, New York, New York 10016, USA

3 Pharmacology, New York University School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue, New York, New York 10016, USA

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BMC Pharmacology 2002, 2:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2210-2-5

Published: 1 March 2002



In this study, we investigated the mechanism(s) by which delta opioids induce their potent activation of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases (ERKs) in different cell lines expressing the cloned δ-opioid receptor (δ-OR). While it has been known for some time that OR stimulation leads to the phosphorylation of both ERK isoforms, the exact progression of events has remained elusive.


Our results indicate that the transphosphorylation of an endogenous epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in the human embryonic kidney (HEK-293) cell line does not occur when co-expressed δ-ORs are stimulated by the δ-opioid agonist, D-Ser-Leu-enkephalin-Thr (DSLET). Moreover, neither pre-incubation of cultures with the selective EGFR antagonist, AG1478, nor down-regulation of the EGFR to a point where EGF could no longer activate ERKs had an inhibitory effect on ERK activation by DSLET. These results appear to rule out any structural or catalytic role for the EGFR in the δ-opioid-mediated MAPK cascade. To confirm these results, we used C6 glioma cells, a cell line devoid of the EGFR. In δ-OR-expressing C6 glioma cells, opioids produce a robust phosphorylation of ERK 1 and 2, whereas EGF has no stimulatory effect. Furthermore, antagonists to the RTKs that are endogenously expressed in C6 glioma cells (insulin receptor (IR) and platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR)) were unable to reduce opioid-mediated ERK activation.


Taken together, these data suggest that the transactivation of resident RTKs does not appear to be required for OR-mediated ERK phosphorylation and that the tyrosine-phosphorylated δ-OR, itself, is likely to act as its own signalling scaffold.