Nociceptin (NC), alias Orphanin FQ, has been recently identified as the endogenous ligand of the opioid receptor‐like 1 receptor (OP4). This new NC/OP4 receptor system belongs to the opioid family and has been characterized pharmacologically with functional and binding assays on native (mouse, rat, guinea‐pig) and recombinant (human) receptors, by using specific and selective agonists (NC, NC(1–13)NH2) and a pure and competitive antagonist, [Nphe1]NC(1–13)NH2. The similar order of potency of agonists and affinity values of the antagonist indicate that the same receptor is present in the four species. OP4 is expressed in neurons, where it reduces activation of adenylyl cyclase and Ca2+ channels while activating K+ channels in a manner similar to opioids. In this way, OP4 mediates inhibitory effects in the autonomic nervous system, but its activities in the central nervous system can be either similar or opposite to those of opioids. In vivo experiments have demonstrated that NC modulates a variety of biological functions ranging from nociception to food intake, from memory processes to cardiovascular and renal functions, from spontaneous locomotor activity to gastrointestinal motility, from anxiety to the control of neurotransmitter release at peripheral and central sites. These actions have been demonstrated using NC and various pharmacological tools, as antisense oligonucleotides targeting OP4 or the peptide precursor genes, antibodies against NC, an OP4 receptor selective antagonist and with data obtained from animals in which the receptor or the peptide precursor genes were knocked out. These new advances have contributed to better understanding of the pathophysiological role of the NC/OP4 system, and ultimately will help to identify the therapeutic potential of new OP4 receptor ligands.
British Journal of Pharmacology – Wiley
Published: Apr 1, 2000
Keywords: ; ; ; ; ;
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