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Papers of the Week

Papers: 1 Apr 2023 - 7 Apr 2023


Pharmacology/Drug Development


2023 Mar 31



Receptor expression and signaling properties in the brain, and structural ligand motifs that contribute to delta opioid receptor agonist-induced seizures.


Blaine AT, van Rijn RM


The δ opioid receptor (δOR) is a therapeutic target for the treatment of various neurological disorders, such as migraines, chronic pain, alcohol use, and mood disorders. Relative to μ opioid receptor agonists, δOR agonists show lower abuse liability and may be potentially safer analgesic alternatives. However, currently no δOR agonists are approved for clinical use. A small number of δOR agonists reached Phase II trials, but ultimately failed to progress due to lack of efficacy. One side effect of δOR agonism that remains poorly understood is the ability of δOR agonists to produce seizures. The lack of a clear mechanism of action is partly driven by the fact that δOR agonists range in their propensity to induce seizure behavior, with multiple δOR agonists reportedly not causing seizures. There is a significant gap in our current understanding of why certain δOR agonists are more likely to induce seizures, and what signal-transduction pathway and/or brain area is engaged to produce these seizures. In this review we provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge of δOR agonist-mediated seizures. The review was structured to highlight which agonists produce seizures, which brain regions have been implicated and which signaling mediators have been examined in this behavior. Our hope is that this review will spur future studies that are carefully designed and aimed to solve the question why certain δOR agonists are seizurogenic. Obtaining such insight may expedite the development of novel δOR clinical candidates without the risk of inducing seizures.