Sustained morphine delivery suppresses bone formation and alters metabolic and circulating miRNA profiles in male C57BL/6J mice

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Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research


Opioid use is detrimental to bone health, causing both indirect and direct effects on bone turnover. While the mechanisms of these effects are not entirely clear, recent studies have linked chronic opioid use to alterations in circulating miRNAs. Here, we developed a model of opioid-induced bone loss to understand bone turnover and identify candidate miRNA-mediated regulatory mechanisms. We evaluated the effects of sustained morphine treatment on male and female C57BL/6J mice by treating with vehicle (0.9% saline) or morphine (17 mg/kg) using subcutaneous osmotic minipumps for 25 days. Morphine-treated mice had higher energy expenditure and respiratory quotient, indicating a shift toward carbohydrate metabolism. Microcomputed tomography (μCT) analysis indicated a sex-difference in the bone outcome, where male mice treated with morphine had reduced trabecular bone volume fraction (Tb.BV/TV) (15%) and Tb. bone mineral density (BMD) (14%) in the distal femur compared to vehicle. Conversely, bone microarchitecture was not changed in females after morphine treatment. Histomorphometric analysis demonstrated that in males, morphine reduced bone formation rate compared to vehicle, but osteoclast parameters were not different. Furthermore, morphine reduced bone formation marker gene expression in the tibia of males (Bglap and Dmp1). Circulating miRNA profile changes were evident in males, with 14 differentially expressed miRNAs associated with morphine treatment, compared to two differentially expressed miRNAs in females. In males, target analysis indicated hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) signaling pathway was targeted by miR-223-3p and fatty acid metabolism by miR-484, -223-3p, and -328-3p. Consequently, expression of miR-223-3p targets, including Igf1r and Stat3, was lower in morphine treated bone. In summary, we have established a model where morphine leads to a lower trabecular bone formation in males and identified potential mediating miRNAs. Understanding the sex-specific mechanisms of bone loss from opioids will be important for improving management of the adverse effects of opioids on the skeleton. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.