Opioid receptor endocytosis and activation of MAP kinase pathway

Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2000 Mar 29;76(2):220-8. doi: 10.1016/s0169-328x(00)00002-4.


Opioid receptors, members of the G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) super family, bind to endogenous opioid peptides or opiate drugs and induce a wide variety of signal transduction processes by inhibiting adenylyl cyclase, modulating cation channels, and activating the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases. Similar to other GPCRs, agonist binding causes rapid internalization and down-regulation of opioid receptors. The interdependence between receptor endocytosis and activation of MAP kinase pathway are increasingly being examined. We have examined these using ligands that exhibit differential extent of endocytosis as well as mutants of mu and delta opioid receptors that are unable to internalize. We find that ligands, including morphine, that do not induce receptor internalization are able to stimulate MAP kinase phosphorylation not only in heterologous cells but also in neuronal cell lines that express endogenous mu and delta receptors. Moreover, mutant receptors that fail to undergo agonist-mediated internalization are able to efficiently phosphorylate MAP kinases. Taken together, these data are consistent with the notion that the activation of MAP kinase pathway is an internalization independent phenomenon in the case of opioid receptors and that GPCR internalization and activation of MAP kinase are governed by complex regulatory mechanisms.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Endocytosis
  • Endorphins / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Activation
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Glycosylation
  • Mice
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Narcotics / pharmacology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Conformation
  • Radioligand Assay
  • Receptors, Opioid / chemistry
  • Receptors, Opioid / genetics
  • Receptors, Opioid / physiology*
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Deletion
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transfection


  • Endorphins
  • Narcotics
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • GTP-Binding Proteins