Molecular determinants of non-specific recognition of delta, mu, and kappa opioid receptors

Bioorg Med Chem. 2001 Jan;9(1):69-76. doi: 10.1016/s0968-0896(00)00223-6.


Identification of the molecular determinants of recognition common to all three opioid receptors embedded in a single three-dimensional (3D) non-specific recognition pharmacophore has been carried out. The working hypothesis that underlies the computational study reported here is that ligands that bind with significant affinity to all three cloned opioid receptors, delta, mu, and kappa, but with different combinations of activation and inhibition properties at these receptors, could be promising behaviorally selective analgesics with diminished side effects. The study presented here represents the first step towards the rational design of such therapeutic agents. The common 3D pharmacophore developed for recognition of delta, mu, and kappa opioid receptors was based on the receptor affinities determined for 23 different opioid ligands that display no specificity for any of the receptor subtypes. The pharmacophore centers identified are a protonated amine, two hydrophobic groups, and the centroid of an aromatic group in a geometric arrangement common to all 23, non-specific, opioid ligands studied. Using this three-dimensional pharmacophore as a query for searching 3D structural databases, novel compounds potentially involved in non-specific recognition of delta, mu, and kappa opioid receptors were retrieved. These compounds can be valuable candidates for novel behaviorally selective analgesics with diminished or no side effects, and thus with potential therapeutic usefulness.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / chemistry*
  • Analgesics / pharmacology
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Drug Design
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Molecular Structure
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / agonists
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / agonists
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / agonists
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / chemistry*


  • Analgesics
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu