Opioid signaling in mast cells regulates injury responses associated with heterotopic ossification

Lixin Kan*, Amelia A. Mutso, Tammy L. McGuire, Apkar Vania Apkarian, John A. Kessler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Introduction: Previous studies found that neuron specific enolase promoter (Nse-BMP4) transgenic mice have increased expression of the nociceptive mediator, substance P and exaggerated local injury responses associated with heterotopic ossification (HO). It is of interest great to know the pain responses in these mice and how the opioid signaling is involved in the downstream events such as mast cell (MC) activation. Materials and methods: This study utilized a transgenic mouse model of HO in which BMP4 is expressed under the control of the Nse-BMP4. The tactile sensitivity and the cold sensitivity of the mice were measured in a classic inflammatory pain model (carrageenan solution injected into the plantar surface of the left hind paw). The MC activation and the expression profiles of different components in the opioid signaling were demonstrated through routine histology and immunohistochemistry and Western blotting, in the superficial and deep muscle injury models. Results: We found that the pain responses in these mice were paradoxically attenuated or unchanged, and we also found increased expression of both Methionine Enkephalin (Met-Enk), and the μ-opioid receptor (MOR). Met-Enk and MOR both co-localized within activated MCs in limb tissues. Further, Nse-BMP4;MOR -/- double mutant mice showed attenuated MC activation and had a significant reduction in HO formation in response to injuries. Conclusions: These observations suggest that opioid signaling may play a key role in MC activation and the downstream inflammatory responses associated with HO. In addition to providing insight into the role of MC activation and associated injury responses in HO, these findings suggest opioid signaling as a potential therapeutic target in HO and possibly others disorders involving MC activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-215
Number of pages9
JournalInflammation Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)
  • Heterotopic ossification (HO)
  • Mast cell (MC)
  • Methionine enkephalin (Met-Enk)
  • Substance P (SP)
  • μ-Opioid receptor (MOR)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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