Emerging evidence demonstrates functional contributions of microRNAs (miRNAs) to μ-opioid receptor (MOR) signaling, but the information so far has been mostly limited to their intracellular regulatory mechanisms. The present study aimed to investigate changes in plasma miRNA profiles elicited by opioid treatment in blood samples collected from clinical studies. Healthy male subjects were orally administered with hydromorphone or oxycodone and blood samples were collected at a specified time after the drug treatment. A total of 179 plasma miRNAs were measured using multiplex qRT-PCR. Nine and seventeen miRNAs were commonly upregulated (let-7a-5p, miR-423-3p, miR-199a-3p, miR-146a-5p, miR-23b-3p, miR-24-3p, miR-221-3p, miR-223-3p, and miR-146b-5p) and downregulated (miR-144-3p, miR-215, miR-363-3p, etc.), respectively, following opioid treatment. The MOR signaling-associated miRNAs, namely let-7 family miRNAs (i.e., let-7d-5p, let-7f-5p, let-7c, let-7e-5p), miR-103a-3p, miR-339-3p, miR-146a-5p, miR-23b-3p, miR-23a-3p, and miR-181a-5p, were differentially expressed following drug treatment. These differentially expressed miRNAs are circulating biomarker candidates that can be used to evaluate MOR stimulation and serve as novel clinical diagnostic tools for improving clinical outcomes.
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