Document Type




Format of Original

9 p.

Publication Date



American Physiological Society

Source Publication

Journal of Applied Physiology

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.90548.2008; PubMed Central, PMCID: PMC2777792


Opioids are clinically important in the alleviation of pain. An undesirable side effect of opioids is depression of breathing. Data from isolated preparations suggest this effect is due to attenuation of discharge activity of neurons in the pre-Bötzinger complex (preBötzC), a medullary area with respiratory rhythmogenic properties. The purpose of this study was to examine how [d-Ala(2),N-Me-Phe(4),Gly(5)-ol]-enkephalin (DAMGO), a μ-opioid receptor agonist, affected breathing after injection into the presumed preBötzC of the adult awake goat. We hypothesized that DAMGO would cause breathing to decrease and become irregular when injected into the presumed preBötzC and the surrounding region of the conscious animal. We further hypothesized that ventilatory sensitivity to CO2 and hypoxia would be blunted after the injection of DAMGO. Microtubules were bilaterally implanted into the presumed preBötzC of 10 adult female goats. After recovery from the surgery, DAMGO (0.5–10 μl, 1 nM–10 μM) was injected into the presumed preBötzC during the awake state. DAMGO had no effect on pulmonary ventilation [inspiratory minute ventilation (V̇i)], respiratory rhythm and pattern, the activation pattern of inspiratory and expiratory muscles, or arterial blood gases during eupneic breathing conditions (P > 0.10). However, DAMGO attenuated (P < 0.05) the evoked increase in breathing frequency when inspired CO2 was increased, and DAMGO attenuated the V̇i response to reduction of inspired O2 to 10.8% (P < 0.05). We conclude that our data do not provide support for the concept that in awake mammals opioid depression of breathing is due to a directed action of opioids on preBötzC neurons.


Accepted version. Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 107, No. 5 (November 2009): 1591-1599. DOI. © 2009 The American Physiological Society. Used with permission.