Biochemical and pharmacological studies of morphine-6-glucuronide and related compounds
2014-01-03T11:23:25Z (GMT) by
Morphine-6-glucuronide is a minor metabolite. representing 5% of an administered dose of morphine. The metabolite has analgesic activity exceeding that of morphine and may contribute to analgesia following morphine administration. The aims of the study were to attempt to identify the reasons behind the improved activity of morphine-6-glucuronide over the parent compound and to examine a series of 6-substituted compounds, based on 6-substituted benzoate esters, as potential mimics of morphine-6-glucuronide. Morphine-6-glucuronide was seen to have similar affinity to morphine at l1-opioid receptors as assessed by ligand-binding assays in mouse brain homogenates. However a three-fold improved affinity at S-opioid receptor binding sites was observed and a ten-fold reduction in affinity at K-opioid sites. Using in vitro bioassay systems the glucuronide showed a two-fold improved potency over morphine in both the guinea-pig ileum and the mouse vas deferens preparations. Following in vivo (s.c.) administration in the mouse the glucuronide was seen to be equipotent with morphine in the tail-flick test, but was of much longer duration, lasting up to 9 hours. Exvivo binding assays confirmed that morphine-like material was still present in the central nervous system six hours after administration of the glucuronide, but was not observed at a similar time after morphine administration. Activity was retained if the hydroxyl groups of the sugar moiety of the glucuronide were protected as esters. In contrast the more prevalent morphine metabolite morphine-3-glucuronide was inactive in all in vitro and in vivo tests used and did not antagonise morphine in vitro or in vivo. A group of 3-substituted derivatives containing saturated and unsaturated substituents did show affinity for opioid receptors but no agonist activity of the compounds could be demonstrated in vitro. A series of synthetic 6-substituted compounds showed a variety of affinities for, and agonist potencies at, opioid receptors, though low affinity at Kopioid receptors was a general finding. For example, morphine-6- nitrobenzoate was l1-opioid receptor preferring, while morphine-6- phthalate had improved O-opioid receptor affinity and acted via Il-opioid receptors in the mouse vas deferens and in vivo. However the compounds were weaker than morphine and the duration of action in vivo was shorter than morphine-6-glucuronide. The conclusions from these studies are that morphine-6-glucuronide and morphine have similar in vitro affinities at the l1-receptor, although morphine-6-glucuronide has somewhat improved binding affinity for Il receptor sites, it has less affinity for K receptor sites. Pharmacokinetic reasons are probably responsible for the improved activity and duration of action of morphine-6-glucuronide over morphine. None of the synthetic compounds examined are potentially useful as direct mimics of the glucuronide because morphine-6-glucuronide is more potent and has a longer duration of action than the synthetic derivatives, though alteration at the 6-position of the morphine nucleus can lead to dramatic changes in selectivity and potency of ligands for the differing opioid receptors.