Opiates have a unique place in medicine in the treatment of pain, although they also have problems due to the potential of abuse. Most clinically used opioids act through mu opioid receptors. Yet, the wide range of responses among patients to individual drugs and the demonstration of incomplete cross tolerance among mu opioids has raised questions regarding how these drugs could all be acting through a single mu receptor. Pharmacological studies going back over twenty years have suggested the existence of multiple subpopulations of mu receptors, a concept that has now been confirmed with the cloning of splice variants of the cloned mu receptor MOR-1 in mice, rats and humans. Understanding the role of these receptor variants in behavior is important for the optimal use of these drugs. In this application we propose to extend ongoing studies correlating the cloned MOR-1 variants with their functions in vivo. We believe that the effects of mu opioids in vivo reflect the summation of actions from a number of mu receptor variants and that differences among the mu drugs reflects their differing efficacies for these receptor populations. We propose to examine this hypothesis using both antisense mapping, knockout animals and traditional behavioral approaches. We also will map the expression of the variants in these models immunohistochemically. Additional studies will focus on topical mechanisms of opioid action as a model system to examine these variants in a more defined system. Finally, we will expand upon the role of transporters in opioid tolerance. Together, these studies should provide insights into the role of the MOR-1 splice variants on opioid action and a better understanding of the use of these drugs.

Public Health Relevance

Morphine and related mu opiates produce their effects through a set of mu receptors, including both analgesia and most of their side-effects. These mu subtypes have been cloned and characterized at the molecular level. By understanding the functional roles of the various mu receptor subtypes, it may be come possible to develop analgesics lacking these side-effects, and possibly even reinforcing potential.

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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Rapaka, Rao
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