Targeting opioid receptor signaling in depression: do we need selective κ opioid receptor antagonists?

  • Bailey S
  • Husbands S
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The opioid receptors are a family of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) with close structural homology. The opioid receptors are activated by a variety of endogenous opioid neuropeptides, principally β-endorphin, dynorphins, leu- and met-enkephalins. The clinical potential of targeting opioid receptors has largely focused on the development of analgesics. However, more recent attention has turned to the role of central opioid receptors in the regulation of stress responses, anhedonia and mood. Activation of the κ opioid receptor (KOP) subtype has been shown in both human and rodent studies to produce dysphoric and pro-depressive like effects. This has led to the idea that selective KOP antagonists might have therapeutic potential as antidepressants. Here we review data showing that mixed μ opioid (MOP) and KOP antagonists have antidepressant-like effects in rodent behavioural paradigms and highlight comparable studies in treatment-resistant depressed patients. We propose that developing multifunctional ligands which target multiple opioid receptors open up the potential for fine-tuning hedonic responses mediated by opioids. This alternative approach towards targeting multiple opioid receptors may lead to more effective treatments for depression. * CRF, : corticotrophin releasing factor; DOP, : δ opioid receptor; GABA, : gamma-aminobutyric acid; GPCR, : G-protein coupled receptor; HPA, : hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal; JDTic, : (3R)-7-Hydroxy-N-[(1S)-1-[[(3R,4R)-4-(3-hydroxyphenyl)-3,4-dimethyl-1-piperidinyl]methyl]-2-methylpropyl]-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-3-isoquinoline-carboxamide; JNK1, : c-jun n-terminal kinase-1; KOP, : κ opioid receptor; MOP, : μ opioid receptor; NOP, : nociceptin/orphanin FQ receptor; norBNI, : norbinaltorphamine; SSRI, : selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor; VTA, : ventral tegmental area; 5′-AMN, : 5′-(aminomethyl) naltrindole; 5′-MABN, : N-((Naltrindol-5-yl) methyl) pentanimidamide




Bailey, S. J., & Husbands, S. M. (2018). Targeting opioid receptor signaling in depression: do we need selective κ opioid receptor antagonists? Neuronal Signaling, 2(2), NS20170145.

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