The analgesic and euphoric properties of some plant alkaloids such as morphine have been known and exploited for centuries. In contrast, only during the last twenty years have we begun to unravel the molecular basis by which opiates exert their effects, mechanisms important to our general understanding of the nervous system. The analgesic response to opiates is the result of a cascade of biochemical events that are triggered by the interaction of the opiate with specific macromolecular components found on the membranes of nervous system tissues, the opioid receptors. The endogenous ligands of these receptors are small peptides, the opioid peptides. Although much has been learned about the structures and the mode of synthesis of the opioid peptides, little is understood about the structure of their receptors. The application of molecular genetic techniques was of great importance to the studies of the opioid peptides. It is now expected that this same technology will unravel the physical mysteries of the opioid receptors.
- Opioid receptors
- molecular biology
- physical characteristics of the different types of opioid receptors
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience