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Papers of the Week

Papers: 31 Oct 2020 - 6 Nov 2020

Pharmacology/Drug Development


2020 Nov 04

Handb Exp Pharmacol

Molecular Genetics of Kappa Opioids in Pain and Itch Sensations.


Tseng P-Y, Hoon MA
Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2020 Nov 04.
PMID: 33145633.


The opioid peptides and their receptors have been linked to multiple key biological processes in the nervous system. Here we review the functions of the kappa opioid receptor (KOR) and its endogenous agonists dynorphins (Goldstein A, Tachibana S, Lowney LI, Hunkapiller M, Hood L, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 76:6666-6670, 1979) in modulating itch and pain (nociception). Specifically, we discuss their roles relative to recent findings that tell us more about the cells and circuits which are impacted by this opioid and its receptor and present reanalysis of single-cell sequencing data showing the expression profiles of these molecules. Since the KOR is relatively specifically activated by peptides derived from the prodynorphin gene and other opioid peptides that show lower affinities, this will be the only interactions we consider (Chavkin C, Goldstein A, Nature 291:591-593, 1981; Chavkin C, James IF, Goldstein A, Science 215:413-415, 1982), although it was noted that at higher doses peptides other than dynorphins might stimulate KOR (Lai J, Luo MC, Chen Q, Ma S, Gardell LR, Ossipov MH, Porreca F, Nat Neurosci 9:1534-1540, 2006). This review has been organized based on anatomy with each section describing the effect of the kappa opioid system in a specific location but let us not forget that most of these circuits are interconnected and are therefore interdependent.