This article is part of the Research Topic non-coding RNA and addiction


Front. Genet., 09 November 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00223

Morphine and microRNA activity: is there a relation with addiction?

  • Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute of Neuroscience, University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain

When we talk about drug addiction, we are really dealing with an extremely complex system in which there still remain many unknowns and where many empty spaces or missing links are still present. Recent studies have identified changes in the expression profiles of several specific miRNAs which affect the interactions between these molecules and their targets in various illnesses, including addiction, and which may serve as valuable targets for more efficient therapies. In this review, we summarize results which clearly demonstrate that several morphine-related miRNAs have roles in the mechanisms that define addiction. In this regard, morphine has been shown to have an important role in the regulation of different miRNAs, such as miR-let-7 [which works as a mediator of the movement of the mu opioid receptor (MOR) mRNA into P-bodies, leading to translational repression], miR-23b (involved in linking MOR expression and morphine treatment at the post-transcriptional level), and miR-190 (a key post-transcriptional repressor of neurogenic differentiation, NeuroD). Fentanyl increases NeuroD levels by reducing the amount of miR-190, but morphine does not affect the levels of NeuroD. We also discuss the relationship between morphine, miRNAs, and the immune system, based on the discovery that morphine treatment of monocytes led to a decrease in several anti-HIV miRNAs (mir-28, 125b, 150, and 382). This review is centered on miR-133b and its possible involvement in addiction through the effects of morphine. We establish the importance of miR-133b as a regulatory factor by summarizing its activity in different pathological processes, especially cancer. Using the zebrafish as a research model, we discuss the relationship between mir-133b, the dopaminergic system, and morphine, considering: (1) that morphine modulates the expression of miR-133b and of its target transcript Pitx3, (2) the role of the zebrafish mu opioid receptor (zfMOR) in morphine-induced regulation of miR-133b, which depends on ERK1/2, (3) that morphine regulates miR-133b in hippocampal neurons, and (4) the role of delta opioid receptors in morphine-induced regulation of miR-133b. We conclude that the control of miR-133b levels may be a mechanism for the development of addiction to morphine, or other drugs of abuse that increase dopaminergic levels in the extracellular space. These results show that miR-133b is a possible new target for the design of new treatments against addictive disorders.

Keywords: opioid, morphine, addiction, miRNA, zebrafish, dopaminergic system, miR-133b

Citation: Rodríguez RE (2012) Morphine and microRNA activity: is there a relation with addiction? Front. Gene. 3:223. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00223

Received: 08 June 2012; Accepted: 06 October 2012;
Published online: 09 November 2012.

Edited by:

Leonard Lipovich, Wayne State University, USA

Reviewed by:

Georges St. Laurent, St. Laurent Institute, USA
Heh-In Im, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea

Copyright: © 2012 Rodríguez. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Raquel E. Rodríguez, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute of Neuroscience, University of Salamanca, C/ Pintor Fernando Gallego 1, Salamanca 37007, Spain. e-mail:

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