Opioid dependence during pregnancy is a rising concern. Maintaining addicted pregnant women on long-acting opioid receptor agonist is the most common strategy to manage drug abuse in pregnant women. Methadone (MET) and buprenorphine (BUP) are widely prescribed for opiate maintenance therapy. Norbuprenorphine (NBUP) is the primary active metabolite of BUP. These medications can cross the placenta to the fetus, leading to postpartum neonatal abstinence syndrome. Despite their use during pregnancy, little is known about the cellular changes in the placenta brought about by these drugs. In this study, we showed that BUP, NBUP, and MET at clinically relevant plasma concentrations significantly induced BCRP mRNA up to 10-fold in human model placental JEG3 and BeWo cells and in primary human villous trophoblasts, and this induction was abrogated by CH223191, an aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)-specific antagonist. These drugs increased AhR recruitment onto the AhR-response elements and significantly induced breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP) gene transcription. AhR overexpression further increased BCRP mRNA and protein expression. Knockdown of AhR by shRNA decreased BCRP expression, and this decrease was reversed by rescuing AhR expression. Finally, induction of BCRP expression in JEG3 and BeWo cells was accompanied by an increase in its efflux activity. Collectively, we have demonstrated, for the first time, that BUP, NBUP, and MET are potent AhR agonists and can induce BCRP in human placental trophoblasts by activating AhR. Given the critical role of BCRP in limiting fetal exposure to drugs and xenobiotics, long-term use of these medications may affect fetal drug exposure by altering BCRP expression in human placenta.
- Received November 2, 2016.
- Accepted December 13, 2016.
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institute on Drug Abuse [Grant DA032507], the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences [Grant TL1-TR000422], and in part by the University of Washington-National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)-sponsored Interdisciplinary Center for Exposures, Diseases, Genomics, and Environment [Grant ES007033]. N.K.N. received the Postdoctoral Scientist Travel Award from the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics to present part of the data at the 2016 annual Experimental Biology meeting.
- Copyright © 2017 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics