Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

William Dewey


Opioids, such as oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl, are commonly used medications in the treatment of moderate to severe pain. In spite of their efficacious analgesic properties, their increased prescribing rates by physicians and inherent abuse-related effects have led to the ongoing opioid epidemic. Their clinical utility is limited by the risk of adverse dose-dependent side effects, such as constipation and respiratory depression, and the development of tolerance and dependence. Opioid-sparing adjunctive therapies are sought to address these issues by reducing the dose of opioid needed to achieve analgesia through alternative non-opioidergic mechanisms and as a result, reduce the incidence of the previously mentioned side effects. Serotonin type-2C receptor agonists have demonstrated antinociceptive efficacy in preclinical models of chronic pain. Lorcaserin is a selective 5-HT2C receptor agonist and was reported to attenuate the abuse-related effects of oxycodone. The antinociceptive properties of 5-HT2C receptor agonists and their potential to alter the abuse-related effects of commonly abused drugs suggest that lorcaserin may be a potential opioid-sparing therapeutic. The goal of these studies was to evaluate the utility of lorcaserin, in combination with opioids, in a preclinical model of acute pain. Based on previous studies demonstrating the antinociceptive activity of 5-HT2C agonists, the hypotheses for these studies were that lorcaserin would increase the acute antinociceptive effects of opioids and would attenuate the development of tolerance associated with chronic opioid consumption.

The results demonstrate that the acute antinociceptive effects and the time-course of activity of opioids were enhanced by doses of lorcaserin. These effects were mediated through activation of the 5-HT2C receptor and were not blocked by administration of naloxone. Additionally, the acute effects of lorcaserin to increase opioid potency and time course was not mediated through changes in opioid distribution in the blood or central tissues.

Opioid tolerance was evaluated in vivo, and tolerance was developed using two methods of treatment: an acute (single dose administration) model of tolerance and a multiple-injection model. Testing the effect of lorcaserin in these models was important because current research suggests that the mechanisms that underlie both models of tolerance are distinct from one another. The results demonstrate that lorcaserin significantly blocked the development of acute tolerance in the whole animal and on a single cell level in dorsal root ganglion cell cultures.

In the multiple-day tolerance model, lorcaserin partially attenuated the development of opioid antinociceptive tolerance. Chronic administration of an opioid is associated with desensitization of the MOR, and the effect of lorcaserin on opioid tolerance may be mediated through changes in MOR functional activity. Upon further investigation using agonist-stimulated [35S]GTPyS, the results showed that lorcaserin altered basal binding of [35S]GTPyS but not agonist-stimulated binding in mice that received chronic opioid treatment. These data suggest that the effect of lorcaserin on opioid tolerance, in the multiple-injection model, is not mediated through changes in MOR functional activity. Collectively, the tolerance studies suggest that the effect of 5-HT2C receptor activation by lorcaserin has differential effects on the stages of opioid tolerances and further supports the notion that the mechanisms that underlie the stages of opioid tolerance are distinct. Given the efficacy of lorcaserin to increase the acute antinociceptive effects of opioids and its ability to impair the development of opioid tolerance, collectively, these data suggest that lorcaserin may be a useful opioid-sparing adjunctive therapy.


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