Functional analysis of cloned opioid receptors in transfected cell lines

E T Piros, T G Hales, C J Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Opioids modulate numerous central and peripheral processes including pain perception neuroendocrine secretion and the immune response. The opioid signal is transduced from receptors through G proteins to various different effectors. Heterogeneity exists at all levels of the transduction process. There are numerous endogenous ligands with differing selectivities for at least three distinct opioid receptors (mu, delta, kappa). G proteins activated by opioid receptors are generally of the pertussis toxin-sensitive Gi/Go class, but there are also opioid actions that are thought to involve Gq and cholera toxin-sensitive G proteins. To further complicate the issue, the actions of opioid receptors may be mediated by G-protein alpha subunits and/or beta gamma subunits. Subsequent to G protein activation several effectors are known to orchestrate the opioid signal. For example activation of opioid receptors increases phosphatidyl inositol turnover, activates K+ channels and reduces adenylyl cyclase and Ca2+ channel activities. Each of these effectors shows considerable heterogeneity. In this review we examine the opioid signal transduction mechanism. Several important questions arise: Why do opioid ligands with similar binding affinities have different potencies in functional assays? To which Ca2+ channel subtypes do opioid receptors couple? Do opioid receptors couple to Ca2+ channels through direct G protein interactions? Does the opioid-induced inhibition of vesicular release occur through modulation of multiple effectors? We are attempting to answer these questions by expressing cloned opioid receptors in GH3 cells. Using this well characterized system we can study the entire opioid signal transduction process from ligand-receptor interaction to G protein-effector coupling and subsequent inhibition of vesicular release.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1277-85
Number of pages9
JournalNeurochemical Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1996


  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cyclic AMP/metabolism
  • GTP-Binding Proteins/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inositol Phosphates/metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Narcotics/pharmacology
  • Receptors, Opioid/biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta/biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa/biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu/biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins/biosynthesis
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transfection/methods


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