Author(s): Connor M, Kitchen I
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Abstract Mu-opioid receptor agonists are a mainstay of clinical analgesia, despite the significant unwanted effects and dependence liability associated with drugs like morphine. The quest for opioids that produce analgesia with fewer undesirable effects has lead to the putative identification of multiple opioid receptor subtypes, despite the identification of only four opioid-related receptor genes. One such putative receptor subtype is the kappa3 receptor, activation of which supposedly produces analgesia in animals. In the present issue of this Journal, Olianas and co-workers have demonstrated that the prototypic kappa3 agonist naloxone benzoylhydrazone is actually a partial agonist at the cloned mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors and an antagonist at opioid-like NOP receptors. Together with a recent study that showed that high-affinity naloxone benzoylhydrazone binding is abolished in triple mu/delta/kappa receptor knockout mice, the present study provides strong evidence that in vivo effects attributed to kappa3 receptor activation probably just reflect the combined actions of a particularly nonselective opioid drug. Indeed, molecular identification of any of the proposed subtypes of mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors has proven elusive, suggesting that it is perhaps time to retire the notion of opioid receptor subtypes until definitive evidence for their existence is provided.
This article was published in Br J Pharmacol
and referenced in Biology and Medicine