Heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein K (hnRNP K) binds to the promoter region of mu-opioid receptor (MOR) to regulate its transcriptional activity. How hnRNP K contributes to the analgesic effects of morphine, however, is largely unknown. We provide evidence that morphine increases hnRNP K protein expression via MOR activation in rat primary cortical neurons and HEK-293 cells expressing MORs, without increasing mRNA levels. Using the bicistronic reporter assay, we examined whether morphine-mediated accumulation of hnRNP K resulted from translational control. We identified potential internal ribosome entry site elements located in the 5′ untranslated regions of hnRNP K transcripts that were regulated by morphine. This finding suggests that internal translation contributes to the morphine-induced accumulation of hnRNP K protein in regions of the central nervous system correlated with nociceptive and antinociceptive modulatory systems in mice. Finally, we found that down-regulation of hnRNP K mediated by siRNA attenuated morphine-induced hyperpolarization of membrane potential in AtT20 cells. Silencing hnRNP K expression in the spinal cord increased nociceptive sensitivity in wild-type mice, but not in MOR-knockout mice. Thus, our findings identify the role of translational control of hnRNP K in morphine-induced analgesia through activation of MOR.
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