An opioid receptor-independent mechanism underlies motility dysfunction and visceral hyperalgesia in opioid-induced bowel dysfunction

You Min Lin, Yanbo Tang, Yu Fu, Shrilakshmi Hegde, Daniel W. Shi, Li Yen M. Huang, Xuan Zheng Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Constipation and abdominal pain are commonly encountered in opioid-induced bowel dysfunction (OBD). The underlying mechanisms are incompletely understood, and treatments are not satisfactory. As patients with OBD often have fecal retention, we aimed to determine whether fecal retention plays a pathogenic role in the development of constipation and abdominal pain in OBD, and if so to investigate the mechanisms. A rodent model of OBD was established by daily morphine treatment at 10 mg/kg for 7 days. Bowel movements, colonic muscle contractility, visceromotor response to colorectal distention, and cell excitability of colon-projecting dorsal root ganglion neurons were determined in rats fed with normal pellet food, or with clear liquid diet. Morphine treatment (Mor) reduced fecal outputs starting on day 1, and caused fecal retention afterward. Compared with controls, Mor rats demonstrated suppressed muscle contractility, increased neuronal excitability, and visceral hypersensitivity. Expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and nerve growth factor (NGF) was upregulated in the smooth muscle of the distended colon in Mor rats. However, prevention of fecal retention by feeding rats with clear liquid diet blocked upregulation of COX-2 and NGF, restored muscle contractility, and attenuated visceral hypersensitivity in Mor rats. Moreover, inhibition of COX-2 improved smooth muscle function and fecal outputs, whereas anti-NGF antibody administration attenuated visceral hypersensitivity in Mor rats. Morphine-induced fecal retention is an independent pathogenic factor for motility dysfunction and visceral hypersensitivity in rats with OBD. Liquid diet may have therapeutic potential for OBD by preventing fecal retention-induced mechanotranscription of COX-2 and NGF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G1093-G1104
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Constipation
  • Fecal retention
  • Mechanical stress
  • Narcotic bowel syndrome
  • Visceral sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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