The opioid growth factor, [Met5]-enkephalin, and the ζ (zeta) opioid receptor are present in human and mouse skin and tonically act to inhibit DNA synthesis in the epidermis

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Opioid peptides serve as tonically active negative growth factors in neural and non-neural cells, in addition to being neuromodulators. To investigate the involvement of opioids in homeostatic renewal of epithelial cells in the epidermis, mice were given systemic injections of the potent opioid antagonist, naltrexone (NTX) (20 mg/kg). Disruption of opioid-receptor interaction by NTX resulted in an elevation of 42 and 72% in DNA synthesis in skin from the dorsum and plantar surface of the hindfoot, respectively, within 2 h; response to NTX was dependent on the circadian rhythm in each region examined. Injection of the naturally occurring and potent opioid growth factor (OGF), [Met5]-enkephalin, at 1 mg/kg depressed DNA synthesis in the dorsum and plantar surface by 42 and 19%, respectively, within 2 h; the effects of OGF complied with the pattern of circadian rhythm in each area of skin. The decreases in labeling index evoked by OGF were blocked by concomitant administration of the opioid antagonist, naloxone (10 mg/kg); naloxone alone at the dosage utilized had no influence on cell replicative processes. In tissue culture studies, OGF and NTX respectively depressed and elevated DNA synthesis. Both OGF and its receptor, ζ, were detected in all but the cornified layer of the epidermis in murine skin from the dorsum, plantar surface, pinnae, and tail. In addition, both peptide and receptor were observed in basal and suprabasal cells of the human epidermis. These results lead to the suggestion that an endogenous opioid peptide and its receptor are present and govern cellular renewal processes in the skin in a direct manner, regulating DNA synthesis in a tonically inhibitory, circadian rhythm-dependent fashion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-497
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1996


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology

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