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Special Issue "Opioids and Their Receptors: Present and Emerging Concepts in Opioid Drug Discovery II"

A special issue of Molecules (ISSN 1420-3049). This special issue belongs to the section "Medicinal Chemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2021) | Viewed by 15379

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Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Mariana Spetea
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Center for Molecular Biosciences (CMBI), University of Innsbruck, Innrain 80-82, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Interests: opioid receptors; opioid pharmacology; pain research; CNS disorders; opioid drug discovery; structure-activity-relationships; GPCRs signalling
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Richard M. van Rijn
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, College of Pharmacy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
Interests: opioids; opioid pharmacology; substance use disorders; pain and anxiety disorders; preclinical drug discovery

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Following the successful first edition of the Special Issue “Opioids and Their Receptors: Present and Emerging Concepts in Opioid Drug Discovery” (https://www.mdpi.com/journal/molecules/special_issues/Opioid_Drug), the second edition of this Special Issue aims to gather works on the latest chemical and pharmacological developments in opioid research, with further understanding of opioids and opioid receptor-mediated actions and the search for alternative treatments for pain and other human disorders where the opioid system plays an central role. A special attention is drawn to advancing concepts in opioid drug discovery in the light of the current opioid crisis. Studies investigating interactions between the opioid system and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will also be suitable for this Special Issue.

We give thanks for past contributions and look forward to receiving new contributions as original articles, short communications, and reviews on the challenging aspects of the opioid research field, ranging from basic science to translational research.

Prof. Dr. Mariana Spetea
Prof. Dr. Richard M. van Rijn
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Molecules is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Opioid receptors 
  • Opioids drugs 
  • Opioid epidemic 
  • Natural and synthetic compounds 
  • Small molecules and peptides 
  • Agonists, antagonists, and partial agonists 
  • Biased agonists and allosteric modulators 
  • Multifunctional and bivalent ligands 
  • Drug design 
  • Synthesis and analytics 
  • Molecular docking and dynamics simulations 
  • Structure–activity relationships 
  • Pharmacology 
  • Pain 
  • CNS disorders 
  • Cardiac ischemia 
  • Gastrointestinal disorders 
  • Cancer 
  • Signal transduction 
  • Opioid side effects

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Published Papers (16 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Opioids and Their Receptors: Present and Emerging Concepts in Opioid Drug Discovery II
Molecules 2022, 27(10), 3140; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27103140 - 13 May 2022
Viewed by 576
Abstract
A few neurotransmitter systems have fascinated the research community, as muchas the opioid system (i.e., opioid ligands and their receptors) [...] Full article

Research

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Article
Non-Peptide Opioids Differ in Effects on Mu-Opioid (MOP) and Serotonin 1A (5-HT1A) Receptors Heterodimerization and Cellular Effectors (Ca2+, ERK1/2 and p38) Activation
Molecules 2022, 27(7), 2350; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27072350 - 06 Apr 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 936
Abstract
The importance of the dynamic interplay between the opioid and the serotonin neuromodulatory systems in chronic pain is well recognized. In this study, we investigated whether these two signalling pathways can be integrated at the single-cell level via direct interactions between the mu-opioid [...] Read more.
The importance of the dynamic interplay between the opioid and the serotonin neuromodulatory systems in chronic pain is well recognized. In this study, we investigated whether these two signalling pathways can be integrated at the single-cell level via direct interactions between the mu-opioid (MOP) and the serotonin 1A (5-HT1A) receptors. Using fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy (FCCS), a quantitative method with single-molecule sensitivity, we characterized in live cells MOP and 5-HT1A interactions and the effects of prolonged (18 h) exposure to selected non-peptide opioids: morphine, codeine, oxycodone and fentanyl, on the extent of these interactions. The results indicate that in the plasma membrane, MOP and 5-HT1A receptors form heterodimers that are characterized with an apparent dissociation constant Kdapp = (440 ± 70) nM). Prolonged exposure to all non-peptide opioids tested facilitated MOP and 5-HT1A heterodimerization and stabilized the heterodimer complexes, albeit to a different extent: Kd, Fentanylapp = (80 ± 70) nM), Kd,Morphineapp = (200 ± 70) nM, Kd, Codeineapp = (100 ± 70) nM and Kd, Oxycodoneapp = (200 ± 70) nM. The non-peptide opioids differed also in the extent to which they affected the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) p38 and the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk1/2), with morphine, codeine and fentanyl activating both pathways, whereas oxycodone activated p38 but not ERK1/2. Acute stimulation with different non-peptide opioids differently affected the intracellular Ca2+ levels and signalling dynamics. Hypothetically, targeting MOP–5-HT1A heterodimer formation could become a new strategy to counteract opioid induced hyperalgesia and help to preserve the analgesic effects of opioids in chronic pain. Full article
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Article
Mechanistic Characterization of the Pharmacological Profile of HS-731, a Peripherally Acting Opioid Analgesic, at the µ-, δ-, κ-Opioid and Nociceptin Receptors
Molecules 2022, 27(3), 919; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27030919 - 28 Jan 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 797
Abstract
Accumulated preclinical and clinical data show that peripheral restricted opioids provide pain relief with reduced side effects. The peripherally acting opioid analgesic HS-731 is a potent dual μ-/δ-opioid receptor (MOR/DOR) full agonist, and a weak, partial agonist at the κ-opioid receptor (KOR). However, [...] Read more.
Accumulated preclinical and clinical data show that peripheral restricted opioids provide pain relief with reduced side effects. The peripherally acting opioid analgesic HS-731 is a potent dual μ-/δ-opioid receptor (MOR/DOR) full agonist, and a weak, partial agonist at the κ-opioid receptor (KOR). However, its binding mode at the opioid receptors remains elusive. Here, we present a comprehensive in silico evaluation of HS-731 binding at all opioid receptors. We provide insights into dynamic interaction patterns explaining the different binding and activity of HS-731 on the opioid receptors. For this purpose, we conducted docking, performed molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and generated dynamic pharmacophores (dynophores). Our results highlight two residues important for HS-731 recognition at the classical opioid receptors (MOR, DOR and KOR), particular the conserved residue 5.39 (K) and the non-conserved residue 6.58 (MOR: K, DOR: W and KOR: E). Furthermore, we assume a salt bridge between the transmembrane helices (TM) 5 and 6 via K2275.39 and E2976.58 to be responsible for the partial agonism of HS-731 at the KOR. Additionally, we experimentally demonstrated the absence of affinity of HS-731 to the nociceptin/orphanin FQ peptide (NOP) receptor. We consider the morphinan phenol Y1303.33 responsible for this affinity lack. Y1303.33 points deep into the NOP receptor binding pocket preventing HS-731 binding to the orthosteric binding pocket. These findings provide significant structural insights into HS-731 interaction pattern with the opioid receptors that are important for understanding the pharmacology of this peripheral opioid analgesic. Full article
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Article
Synthesis, Pharmacological Evaluation, and Computational Studies of Cyclic Opioid Peptidomimetics Containing β3-Lysine
Molecules 2022, 27(1), 151; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27010151 - 28 Dec 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 915
Abstract
Our formerly described pentapeptide opioid analog Tyr-c[D-Lys-Phe-Phe-Asp]NH2 (designated RP-170), showing high affinity for the mu (MOR) and kappa (KOR) opioid receptors, was much more stable than endomorphine-2 (EM-2) in the rat brain homogenate and displayed remarkable antinociceptive activity after central (intracerebroventricular) [...] Read more.
Our formerly described pentapeptide opioid analog Tyr-c[D-Lys-Phe-Phe-Asp]NH2 (designated RP-170), showing high affinity for the mu (MOR) and kappa (KOR) opioid receptors, was much more stable than endomorphine-2 (EM-2) in the rat brain homogenate and displayed remarkable antinociceptive activity after central (intracerebroventricular) and peripheral (intravenous ) administration. In this report, we describe the further modification of this analog, which includes the incorporation of a β3-amino acid, (R)- and (S)-β3-Lys, instead of D-Lys in position 2. The influence of such replacement on the biological properties of the obtained analogs, Tyr-c[(R)-β3-Lys-Phe-Phe-Asp]NH2 (RP-171) and Tyr-c[(S)-β3-Lys-Phe-Phe-Asp]NH2, (RP-172), was investigated in vitro. Receptor radiolabeled displacement and functional calcium mobilization assays were performed to measure binding affinity and receptor activation of the new analogs. The obtained data revealed that only one of the diastereoisomeric peptides, RP-171, was able to selectively bind and activate MOR. Molecular modeling (docking and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations) suggests that both compounds should be accommodated in the MOR binding site. However, in the case of the inactive isomer RP-172, fewer hydrogen bonds, as well as instability of the canonical ionic interaction to Asp147, could explain its very low MOR affinity. Full article
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Article
Identification of a Novel Delta Opioid Receptor Agonist Chemotype with Potential Negative Allosteric Modulator Capabilities
Molecules 2021, 26(23), 7236; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26237236 - 29 Nov 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1239
Abstract
The δ-opioid receptor (δOR) holds great potential as a therapeutic target. Yet, clinical drug development, which has focused on δOR agonists that mimic the potent and selective tool compound SNC80 have largely failed. It has increasingly become apparent that the SNC80 scaffold carries [...] Read more.
The δ-opioid receptor (δOR) holds great potential as a therapeutic target. Yet, clinical drug development, which has focused on δOR agonists that mimic the potent and selective tool compound SNC80 have largely failed. It has increasingly become apparent that the SNC80 scaffold carries with it potent and efficacious β-arrestin recruitment. Here, we screened a relatively small (5120 molecules) physical drug library to identify δOR agonists that underrecruit β-arrestin, as it has been suggested that compounds that efficaciously recruit β-arrestin are proconvulsant. The screen identified a hit compound and further characterization using cellular binding and signaling assays revealed that this molecule (R995045, compound 1) exhibited ten-fold selectivity over µ- and κ-opioid receptors. Compound 1 represents a novel chemotype at the δOR. A subsequent characterization of fourteen analogs of compound 1, however did not identify a more potent δOR agonist. Computational modeling and in vitro characterization of compound 1 in the presence of the endogenous agonist leu-enkephalin suggest compound 1 may also bind allosterically and negatively modulate the potency of Leu-enkephalin to inhibit cAMP, acting as a ‘NAM-agonist’ in this assay. The potential physiological utility of such a class of compounds will need to be assessed in future in vivo assays. Full article
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Article
Characterization of the Synergistic Effect between Ligands of Opioid and Free Fatty Acid Receptors in the Mouse Model of Colitis
Molecules 2021, 26(22), 6827; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26226827 - 11 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 749
Abstract
Background: Recent studies suggest that lipids, including free fatty acids (FFAs), are necessary for proper μ opioid receptor (MOR) binding and that activation of opioid receptors (ORs) improves intestinal inflammation. The objective of the study was to investigate a possible interaction between the [...] Read more.
Background: Recent studies suggest that lipids, including free fatty acids (FFAs), are necessary for proper μ opioid receptor (MOR) binding and that activation of opioid receptors (ORs) improves intestinal inflammation. The objective of the study was to investigate a possible interaction between the ORs and FFA receptors (FFARs) ligands in the colitis. Methods: The potential synergistic effect of ORs and FFARs ligands was evaluated using mouse model of acute colitis induced by dextran sulfate sodium (DSS, 4%). Compounds were injected intraperitoneally (i.p.) once or twice daily at the doses of 0.01 or 0.02 mg/kg body weight (BW) (DAMGO—an MOR agonist), 0.3 mg/kg BW (DPDPE—a δ OR (DOR) agonist) and 1 mg/kg BW (naloxone—a non-selective OR antagonist, GLPG 0974—a FFAR2 antagonist, GSK 137647—a FFAR4 agonist and AH 7614—a FFAR4 antagonist) for 4 days. Results: Myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity was significantly decreased after DAMGO (0.02 mg/kg BW) and GSK 137647 (1 mg/kg BW) administration and co-administration as compared to DSS group. Conclusions: Treatment with ligands of ORs and FFARs may affect the immune cells in the inflammation; however, no significant influence on the severity of colitis and no synergistic effect were observed. Full article
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Article
Discovery of Novel Delta Opioid Receptor (DOR) Inverse Agonist and Irreversible (Non-Competitive) Antagonists
Molecules 2021, 26(21), 6693; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26216693 - 05 Nov 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1020 | Correction
Abstract
The delta opioid receptor (DOR) is a crucial receptor system that regulates pain, mood, anxiety, and similar mental states. DOR agonists, such as SNC80, and DOR-neutral antagonists, such as naltrindole, were developed to investigate the DOR in vivo and as potential therapeutics for [...] Read more.
The delta opioid receptor (DOR) is a crucial receptor system that regulates pain, mood, anxiety, and similar mental states. DOR agonists, such as SNC80, and DOR-neutral antagonists, such as naltrindole, were developed to investigate the DOR in vivo and as potential therapeutics for pain and depression. However, few inverse agonists and non-competitive/irreversible antagonists have been developed, and none are widely available. This leaves a gap in our pharmacological toolbox and limits our ability to investigate the biology of this receptor. Thus, we designed and synthesized the novel compounds SRI-9342 as an irreversible antagonist and SRI-45128 as an inverse agonist. These compounds were then evaluated in vitro for their binding affinity by radioligand binding, their functional activity by 35S-GTPγS coupling, and their cAMP accumulation in cells expressing the human DOR. Both compounds demonstrated high binding affinity and selectivity at the DOR, and both displayed their hypothesized molecular pharmacology of irreversible antagonism (SRI-9342) or inverse agonism (SRI-45128). Together, these results demonstrate that we have successfully designed new inverse agonists and irreversible antagonists of the DOR based on a novel chemical scaffold. These new compounds will provide new tools to investigate the biology of the DOR or even new potential therapeutics. Full article
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Article
In Vitro Analyses of Spinach-Derived Opioid Peptides, Rubiscolins: Receptor Selectivity and Intracellular Activities through G Protein- and β-Arrestin-Mediated Pathways
Molecules 2021, 26(19), 6079; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26196079 - 08 Oct 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 945
Abstract
Activated opioid receptors transmit internal signals through two major pathways: the G-protein-mediated pathway, which exerts analgesia, and the β-arrestin-mediated pathway, which leads to unfavorable side effects. Hence, G-protein-biased opioid agonists are preferable as opioid analgesics. Rubiscolins, the spinach-derived naturally occurring opioid peptides, are [...] Read more.
Activated opioid receptors transmit internal signals through two major pathways: the G-protein-mediated pathway, which exerts analgesia, and the β-arrestin-mediated pathway, which leads to unfavorable side effects. Hence, G-protein-biased opioid agonists are preferable as opioid analgesics. Rubiscolins, the spinach-derived naturally occurring opioid peptides, are selective δ opioid receptor agonists, and their p.o. administration exhibits antinociceptive effects. Although the potency and effect of rubiscolins as G-protein-biased molecules are partially confirmed, their in vitro profiles remain unclear. We, therefore, evaluated the properties of rubiscolins, in detail, through several analyses, including the CellKeyTM assay, cADDis® cAMP assay, and PathHunter® β-arrestin recruitment assay, using cells stably expressing µ, δ, κ, or µ/δ heteromer opioid receptors. In the CellKeyTM assay, rubiscolins showed selective agonistic effects for δ opioid receptor and little agonistic or antagonistic effects for µ and κ opioid receptors. Furthermore, rubiscolins were found to be G-protein-biased δ opioid receptor agonists based on the results obtained in cADDis® cAMP and PathHunter® β-arrestin recruitment assays. Finally, we found, for the first time, that they are also partially agonistic for the µ/δ dimers. In conclusion, rubiscolins could serve as attractive seeds, as δ opioid receptor-specific agonists, for the development of novel opioid analgesics with reduced side effects. Full article
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Article
Antipruritic Effect of Nalbuphine, a Kappa Opioid Receptor Agonist, in Mice: A Pan Antipruritic
Molecules 2021, 26(18), 5517; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26185517 - 11 Sep 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 979
Abstract
Antipruritic effects of kappa opioid receptor (KOR) agonists have been shown in rodent models of acute and chronic scratching (itchlike behavior). Three KOR agonists, nalfurafine, difelikefalin, and nalbuphine, are in clinical studies for antipruritic effects in chronic itch of systemic and skin diseases. [...] Read more.
Antipruritic effects of kappa opioid receptor (KOR) agonists have been shown in rodent models of acute and chronic scratching (itchlike behavior). Three KOR agonists, nalfurafine, difelikefalin, and nalbuphine, are in clinical studies for antipruritic effects in chronic itch of systemic and skin diseases. Nalfurafine (in Japan) and difelikefalin (in the USA) were approved to be used in the treatment of chronic itch in hemodialysis patients. The FDA-approved nalbuphine has been used in clinic for over 40 years, and it is the only narcotic agonist that is not scheduled. We aimed to study (a) antiscratch activity of nalbuphine against TAT-HIV-1 protein (controls HIV transcription)-, deoxycholic acid (DCA, bile acid)-, and chloroquine (CQ)-induced scratching in a mouse model of acute itch; and (b) whether the effect of nalbuphine is produced via KORs. First, dose–responses were developed for pruritogens. Mice were pretreated with nalbuphine (0.3–10 mg/kg) and then a submaximal dose of pruritogens were administered and the number of scratching bouts was counted. To study if the antiscratch effect of nalbuphine is produced via KOR, we used KOR knock out mice and pharmacologic inhibition of KORs using nor-binaltorphimine, a KOR antagonist. For this aim, we used CQ as a pruritogen. We found that: (a) TAT-HIV-1 protein elicits scratching in a dose-dependent manner; (b) nalbuphine inhibits scratching induced by TAT-HIV-1, DCA, and CQ dose-dependently; and (c) nalbuphine inhibits scratching induced by CQ through KORs. In conclusion, nalbuphine inhibits scratching elicited by multiple pruritogens. Full article
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Article
SR-17018 Stimulates Atypical µ-Opioid Receptor Phosphorylation and Dephosphorylation
Molecules 2021, 26(15), 4509; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26154509 - 27 Jul 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 853
Abstract
Opioid-associated overdoses and deaths due to respiratory depression are a major public health problem in the US and other Western countries. In the past decade, much research effort has been directed towards the development of G-protein-biased µ-opioid receptor (MOP) agonists as a possible [...] Read more.
Opioid-associated overdoses and deaths due to respiratory depression are a major public health problem in the US and other Western countries. In the past decade, much research effort has been directed towards the development of G-protein-biased µ-opioid receptor (MOP) agonists as a possible means to circumvent this problem. The bias hypothesis proposes that G-protein signaling mediates analgesia, whereas ß-arrestin signaling mediates respiratory depression. SR-17018 was initially reported as a highly biased µ-opioid with an extremely wide therapeutic window. It was later shown that SR-17018 can also reverse morphine tolerance and prevent withdrawal via a hitherto unknown mechanism of action. Here, we examined the temporal dynamics of SR-17018-induced MOP phosphorylation and dephosphorylation. Exposure of MOP to saturating concentrations of SR-17018 for extended periods of time stimulated a MOP phosphorylation pattern that was indistinguishable from that induced by the full agonist DAMGO. Unlike DAMGO-induced MOP phosphorylation, which is reversible within minutes after agonist washout, SR-17018-induced MOP phosphorylation persisted for hours under otherwise identical conditions. Such delayed MOP dephosphorylation kinetics were also found for the partial agonist buprenorphine. However, buprenorphine, SR-17018-induced MOP phosphorylation was fully reversible when naloxone was included in the washout solution. SR-17018 exhibits a qualitative and temporal MOP phosphorylation profile that is strikingly different from any other known biased, partial, or full MOP agonist. We conclude that detailed analysis of receptor phosphorylation may provide novel insights into previously unappreciated pharmacological properties of newly synthesized MOP ligands. Full article
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Article
Profiling the Effects of Repetitive Morphine Administration on Motor Behavior in Rats
Molecules 2021, 26(14), 4355; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26144355 - 19 Jul 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1116
Abstract
Efficient repetitive clinical use of morphine is limited by its numerous side effects, whereas analgesic tolerance necessitates subsequent increases in morphine dose to achieve adequate levels of analgesia. While many studies focused on analgesic tolerance, the effect of morphine dosing on non-analgesic effects [...] Read more.
Efficient repetitive clinical use of morphine is limited by its numerous side effects, whereas analgesic tolerance necessitates subsequent increases in morphine dose to achieve adequate levels of analgesia. While many studies focused on analgesic tolerance, the effect of morphine dosing on non-analgesic effects has been overlooked. This study aimed to characterize morphine-induced behavior and the development and progression of morphine-induced behavioral tolerance. Adult male Sprague–Dawley rats were repetitively treated with subcutaneous morphine for 14 days in two dose groups (A: 5 mg/kg/day (b.i.d.) → 10 mg/kg/day; B: 10 mg/kg/day (b.i.d.) → 20 mg/kg/day). Motor behavior was assessed daily (distance traveled, speed, moving time, rearing, rotation) in an open-field arena, before and 30 min post-injections. Antinociception was measured using tail-flick and hot-plate assays. All measured parameters were highly suppressed in both dosing groups on the first treatment day, followed by a gradual manifestation of behavioral tolerance as the treatment progressed. Animals in the high-dose group showed increased locomotor activity after 10 days of morphine treatment. This excitatory phase converted to an inhibition of behavior when a higher morphine dose was introduced. We suggest that the excitatory locomotor effects of repetitive high-dose morphine exposure represent a signature of its behavioral and antinociceptive tolerance. Full article
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Article
Synthesis and Antinociceptive Effect of Some Thiazole-Piperazine Derivatives: Involvement of Opioidergic System in the Activity
Molecules 2021, 26(11), 3350; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26113350 - 02 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1055
Abstract
In this study, we aimed to design and synthesize novel molecules carrying both the thiazole and piperazine rings in their structures and to investigate their antinociceptive activity. Targeted compounds were obtained by reacting thiosemicarbazide derivative and appropriate 2-bromoacetophenone in ethanol. The structures of [...] Read more.
In this study, we aimed to design and synthesize novel molecules carrying both the thiazole and piperazine rings in their structures and to investigate their antinociceptive activity. Targeted compounds were obtained by reacting thiosemicarbazide derivative and appropriate 2-bromoacetophenone in ethanol. The structures of the obtained compounds were determined using data from various spectroscopic methods (IR, 1H-NMR, 13C-NMR, and LCMSMS). Experimental data from in vivo tests showed that test compounds 3a3c, 3f, and 3g (50 mg/kg) significantly prolonged reaction times of animals in tail-clip and hot-plate tests compared to the controls, indicating that these compounds possess centrally mediated antinociceptive activities. Furthermore, these compounds reduced the number of writhing behaviors in the acetic acid-induced writhing tests, showing that the compounds also possess peripheral antinociceptive activity. In the mechanistic studies, naloxone pre-treatments abolished the antinociceptive activities of compounds 3a3c, 3f, and 3g, indicating that opioidergic mechanisms were involved in their antinociceptive effects. Molecular docking studies demonstrating significant interactions between the active compounds and µ- and δ-opioid receptor proteins supported the pharmacological findings. This study is the first showing that molecules designed to bear thiazole and piperazine moieties together on their structure exert centrally and peripherally mediated antinociceptive effects by activating the opioid system. Full article
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Review

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Review
Spotlight on Nociceptin/Orphanin FQ Receptor in the Treatment of Pain
Molecules 2022, 27(3), 595; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27030595 - 18 Jan 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 469
Abstract
In our society today, pain has become a main source of strain on most individuals. It is crucial to develop novel treatments against pain while focusing on decreasing their adverse effects. Throughout the extent of development for new pain therapies, the nociceptin/orphanin FQ [...] Read more.
In our society today, pain has become a main source of strain on most individuals. It is crucial to develop novel treatments against pain while focusing on decreasing their adverse effects. Throughout the extent of development for new pain therapies, the nociceptin/orphanin FQ receptor (NOP receptor) has appeared to be an encouraging focal point. Concentrating on NOP receptor to treat chronic pain with limited range of unwanted effects serves as a suitable alternative to prototypical opioid morphine that could potentially lead to life-threatening effects caused by respiratory depression in overdose, as well as generate abuse and addiction. In addition to these harmful effects, the uprising opioid epidemic is responsible for becoming one of the most disastrous public health issues in the US. In this article, the contributing molecular and cellular structure in controlling the cellular trafficking of NOP receptor and studies that support the role of NOP receptor and its ligands in pain management are reviewed. Full article
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Review
Shedding Light on the Pharmacological Interactions between μ-Opioid Analgesics and Angiotensin Receptor Modulators: A New Option for Treating Chronic Pain
Molecules 2021, 26(20), 6168; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26206168 - 13 Oct 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 981
Abstract
The current protocols for neuropathic pain management include µ-opioid receptor (MOR) analgesics alongside other drugs; however, there is debate on the effectiveness of opioids. Nevertheless, dose escalation is required to maintain their analgesia, which, in turn, contributes to a further increase in opioid [...] Read more.
The current protocols for neuropathic pain management include µ-opioid receptor (MOR) analgesics alongside other drugs; however, there is debate on the effectiveness of opioids. Nevertheless, dose escalation is required to maintain their analgesia, which, in turn, contributes to a further increase in opioid side effects. Finding novel approaches to effectively control chronic pain, particularly neuropathic pain, is a great challenge clinically. Literature data related to pain transmission reveal that angiotensin and its receptors (the AT1R, AT2R, and MAS receptors) could affect the nociception both in the periphery and CNS. The MOR and angiotensin receptors or drugs interacting with these receptors have been independently investigated in relation to analgesia. However, the interaction between the MOR and angiotensin receptors has not been excessively studied in chronic pain, particularly neuropathy. This review aims to shed light on existing literature information in relation to the analgesic action of AT1R and AT2R or MASR ligands in neuropathic pain conditions. Finally, based on literature data, we can hypothesize that combining MOR agonists with AT1R or AT2R antagonists might improve analgesia. Full article
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Review
Epigenetic and Transcriptional Control of the Opioid Prodynorphine Gene: In-Depth Analysis in the Human Brain
Molecules 2021, 26(11), 3458; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26113458 - 07 Jun 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1013
Abstract
Neuropeptides serve as neurohormones and local paracrine regulators that control neural networks regulating behavior, endocrine system and sensorimotor functions. Their expression is characterized by exceptionally restricted profiles. Circuit-specific and adaptive expression of neuropeptide genes may be defined by transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms controlled [...] Read more.
Neuropeptides serve as neurohormones and local paracrine regulators that control neural networks regulating behavior, endocrine system and sensorimotor functions. Their expression is characterized by exceptionally restricted profiles. Circuit-specific and adaptive expression of neuropeptide genes may be defined by transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms controlled by cell type and subtype sequence-specific transcription factors, insulators and silencers. The opioid peptide dynorphins play a critical role in neurological and psychiatric disorders, pain processing and stress, while their mutations cause profound neurodegeneration in the human brain. In this review, we focus on the prodynorphin gene as a model for the in-depth epigenetic and transcriptional analysis of expression of the neuropeptide genes. Prodynorphin studies may provide a framework for analysis of mechanisms relevant for regulation of neuropeptide genes in normal and pathological human brain. Full article
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Other

Correction
Correction: Tanguturi et al. Discovery of Novel Delta Opioid Receptor (DOR) Inverse Agonist and Irreversible (Non-Competitive) Antagonists. Molecules 2021, 26, 6693
Molecules 2022, 27(6), 1969; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27061969 - 18 Mar 2022
Viewed by 329
Abstract
There was an error in the original publication [...] Full article
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