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Pharmacological profiles of opioid ligands at Kappa opioid receptors

Parham Gharagozlou1, Ezzat Hashemi1, Timothy M DeLorey1, J David Clark2 and Jelveh Lameh13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology, Molecular Research Institute, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA

2 Department of Anaesthesiology, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA, 94034, USA

3 ACADIA Pharmaceuticals Inc., San Diego, CA 92121, USA

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BMC Pharmacology 2006, 6:3  doi:10.1186/1471-2210-6-3

Published: 25 January 2006



The aim of the present study was to describe the activity of a set of opioid drugs, including partial agonists, in a human embryonic kidney cell system stably expressing only the mouse κ-opioid receptors. Receptor activation was assessed by measuring the inhibition of cyclic adenosine mono phosphate (cAMP) production stimulated by 5 μM forskolin. Intrinsic activities and potencies of these ligands were determined relative to the endogenous ligand dynorphin and the κ agonist with the highest intrinsic activity that was identified in this study, fentanyl.


Among the ligands studied naltrexone, WIN 44,441 and dezocine, were classified as antagonists, while the remaining ligands were agonists. Intrinsic activity of agonists was assessed by determining the extent of inhibition of forskolin-stimulated cAMP production. The absolute levels of inhibition of cAMP production by each ligand was used to describe the rank order of intrinsic activity of the agonists; fentanyl = lofentanil ≥ hydromorphone = morphine = nalorphine ≥ etorphine ≥ xorphanol ≥ metazocine ≥ SKF 10047 = cyclazocine ≥ butorphanol > nalbuphine. The rank order of affinity of these ligands was; cyclazocine > naltrexone ≥ SKF 10047 ≥ xorphanol ≥ WIN 44,441 > nalorphine > butorphanol > nalbuphine ≥ lofentanil > dezocine ≥ metazocine ≥ morphine > hydromorphone > fentanyl.


These results elucidate the relative activities of a set of opioid ligands at κ-opioid receptor and can serve as the initial step in a systematic study leading to understanding of the mode of action of these opioid ligands at this receptor.