In addition to effects in the periphery through inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis, several lines of evidence suggest that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) act in the central nervous system. The possibility that the central action of NSAIDs involves regulation of opioid receptors was investigated by quantitative autoradiography of mu, delta, and kappa sites in rat brain slices. Increased (p < 0.05) labeling of mu receptors was observed in thalamic nuclei, gyrus dentate, and layers of the parietal cortex of rats treated for 10 days with lysine clonixinate. Labeling of delta receptors was lower in the lateral septum, and kappa sites decreased in thalamic nuclei. These effects were not mediated through direct interaction with opioid-binding sites, since receptor-binding assays using rat brain membranes confirmed that clonixinate up to 1 × 10–4 mol/l does not inhibit mu, delta, and kappa receptor specific binding. Central effects of NSAIDs might, therefore, involve interaction with the opioid receptor system through indirect mechanisms.

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