Differential in vivo potencies of naltrexone and 6β-naltrexol in the monkey

M. C.Holden Ko, Mary F. Divin, Heeseung Lee, James H. Woods, John R. Traynor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


6β-Naltrexol is the major metabolite of the opioid receptor antagonist, naltrexone, in humans. However, there are no functional studies of 6β-naltrexol in primates. The aim of this study was to compare the in vitro and in vivo potencies of naltrexone and 6β-naltrexol in rhesus monkeys. Affinity and potency were determined using radioligand displacement and stimulation of 5′-O-(3-[35S]thio)triphosphate ([ 35S]GTPγS) binding in monkey brain membranes. In vivo apparent pA2 analysis was applied to compare the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) antagonist potency of both compounds in nondependent monkeys. In addition, the potencies of both compounds were determined in precipitating withdrawal manifested by increased respiratory parameters in acute morphine-dependent monkeys. In vitro assays revealed that naltrexone displayed 2-fold higher affinity and potency than 6β-naltrexol for the MOR binding site and for MOR agonist-stimulated [35S]GTPγS binding, respectively. 6β-Naltrexol (0.32-3.2 mg/kg) dose-dependently produced parallel rightward shifts of the dose-response curve of alfentanil-induced antinociception. Nevertheless, the apparent pA2 value of 6β-naltrexol (6.5) was 100-fold less potent than that of naltrexone (8.5) determined previously. 6β-Naltrexol was also less potent than naltrexone in antagonizing other MOR-mediated effects including respiratory depression and itch/scratching. Naltrexone (0.0032-0.032 mg/kg) and 6β-naltrexol (0.32-3.2 mg/kg) retained the same potency difference in precipitating withdrawal to a similar degree. Furthermore, 6β-naltrexol failed to block naltrexone-precipitated withdrawal in morphine-dependent monkeys. These results indicate that naltrexone and 6β-naltrexol display similar pharmacological actions with a large in vivo potency difference in monkeys such that 6β-naltrexol may play a minimal role in the therapeutic or antagonist effects of naltrexone in primates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)772-779
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006


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