The Μ Opioid Receptor and Ligands Acting at the Μ Opioid Receptor, as Therapeutics and Potential Therapeutics.

The µ Opioid Receptor and Ligands Acting at the µ Opioid Receptor, as Therapeutics and Potential Therapeutics.

Curr Pharm Des. 2013 Feb 20;
Spetea M, Asim MF, Wolber G, Schmidhammer H

Although the µ opioid receptor (MOR) was pharmacologically and biochemically identified in binding studies forty years ago, their structure, function, and true complexity only have emerged after its cloning in 1993. Continuous efforts from many laboratories have greatly advanced our understanding of MORs, ranging from their anatomic distribution to cellular and molecular mechanisms, and from cell lines to in vivo systems. The MOR is recognized as the main target for effective pain relief, but its involvement in many other physiological functions has also been recognized. This review provides a synopsis on the history of research on MORs and ligands acting at the MOR with the focus on their clinical and potential use as therapeutic drugs, or as valuable research tools. Since the elucidation of the chemical structure of morphine and the characterization of endogenous opioid peptides, research has stimulated the development of new generations of MOR ligands with distinct pharmacological profiles (agonist, antagonist, mixed agonist/antagonist and partial agonist) or site of action (central/peripheral). Discovery of therapeutically useful morphine-like drugs and innovative drugs with new scaffolds, with several outstanding representatives, is discussed. Extensive efforts on modifications of endogenous peptides to attain stable and MOR selective analogues are overviewed with stimulating results for the development of peptide-based pharmaceuticals. With pharmacophore modeling as an important tool in drug discovery, application of modern computational methodologies for the development of morphinans as new MOR ligands is described. Moreover, the crystal structure of the MOR available today will enable the application of structure-based approaches to design better drugs for the management of pain, addiction and other human diseases, where MORs play a key role. HubMed – addiction


Current ? Opioid Receptor Ligands and Discovery of a New Molecular Scaffold as a ? Opioid Receptor Antagonist using Pharmacophore-Based Virtual Screening.

Curr Pharm Des. 2013 Feb 19;
Spetea M, Asim MF, Noha S, Gerhard G, Schmidhammer H

The ? opioid receptor (KOR) plays a significant role in many physiological functions, including pain relief, stress, depression, drug abuse, anxiety and psychotic behaviors. KORs are widely distributed in the central and peripheral nervous systems, and are specifically activated by endogenous opioids derived from prodynorphin. They are members of the G protein-coupled receptor superfamily, and the crystal structure of the human KOR was recently elucidated. KORs were initially studied for involvement in mediation of pain and pain still remains a likely indication for KOR agonists, as stimulation of KOR produces analgesia and minimizes abuse liability and other side effects as in the case for the µ opioid receptor (MOR). Nowadays, the KOR is rapidly emerging as an important target for the treatment of a variety of other human disorders. Specifically, the KOR system has become increasingly implicated as a modulator of stress-related and addictive behaviors. Several selective KOR partial agonists and antagonists have been developed as potential antidepressants, anxiolytic and anti-addiction medications. Although many KOR ligands have not demonstrated desirable pharmacological properties, some have been shown to be viable drug candidates. Herein, we describe chemical and pharmacological developments on KOR ligands, advantages and challenges, and potential therapeutic applications of ligands for KORs. In the second part, recent advances in the KOR drug design utilizing computational approaches are presented, with focus on the discovery of a new naturally derived scaffold, sewarine, as a novel class of selective KOR ligands with antagonist properties, using a pharmacophore-based virtual screening strategy. HubMed – addiction


Safety encoding in the Basal amygdala.

J Neurosci. 2013 Feb 27; 33(9): 3744-51
Sangha S, Chadick JZ, Janak PH

Learning to fear and avoid life-threatening stimuli are critical survival skills but are maladaptive when they persist in the absence of a direct threat. Thus, it is important to detect when a situation is safe and to increase behaviors leading to naturally rewarding actions, such as feeding and mating. It is unclear how the brain distinguishes between dangerous and safe situations. Here, we present a novel protocol designed to investigate the processing of cues that predict danger, safety, or reward (sucrose). In vivo single unit recordings were obtained in the basal amygdala of freely behaving rats undergoing simultaneous reward, fear, and safety conditioning. We observed a population of neurons that did not respond to a Fear Cue but did change their firing rate during the combined presentation of a fear cue simultaneous with a second, safety, cue; this combination of Fear + Safety Cues signified “no shock.” This neural population consisted of two subpopulations: neurons that responded to the Fear + Safety Cue but not the Fear or Reward Cue (“safety” neurons), and neurons that responded to the Fear + Safety and Reward Cue but not the Fear Cue (“safety + reward” neurons). These data demonstrate the presence of neurons in the basal amygdala that are selectively responsive to Safety Cues. Furthermore, these data suggest that safety and reward learning use overlapping mechanisms in the basal amygdala. HubMed – addiction