Delta-opioid receptor activation promotes mesenchymal stem cell survival via PKC/STAT3 signaling pathway

Sayaka Higuchi, Masaaki Ii, Ping Zhu, Muhammad Ashraf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: The survival of stem cells upon transplantation into ischemic myocardium is a major concern in cellbased therapy. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that activation of opioid receptors would enhance the survival of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) upon exposure to an injury stimulus. Methods and Results: MSCs were obtained from rat bone marrow and cultured in basal DMEM cell culture medium. Delta-opioid receptor (DOR) was present in MSCs as examined by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and immunochemistry. Activation of DOR with 5 μmol/L SNC80 (DOR agonist) for 24 h significantly enhanced MSC viability upon exposure to 5 μg/ml actinomycin D as determined by TUNEL and MTT assays. The cytoprotection was abolished with 20 μmol/L naltrindole hydrochloride (a DOR antagonist). Treatment of the cells with 1.5 μmol/L chelerythrine (protein kinase C inhibitor) and 1.25 μmol/L WP1066 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) inhibitor) blocked SNC80-induced cytoprotection. Furthermore, treatment of the cells with chelerythrine also blocked STAT3-phosphorylation and Mcl-1 gene expression. Conclusions: Taken together, the results indicate that DOR plays a critical role in MSC survival upon exposure to actinomycin D through activation of protein kinase C and its downstream signaling molecules STAT3 and Mcl-1. DOR may be a novel therapeutic target for stem cell survival during cell-based therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-212
Number of pages9
JournalCirculation Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Delta-opioid receptor
  • Mcl-1
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Protein kinase C
  • STAT3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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