A review of the role of anti-opioid peptides in morphine tolerance and dependence

Synapse. 1992 Oct;12(2):129-38. doi: 10.1002/syn.890120206.


Studies on the mechanisms of tolerance and dependence have mostly focused on changes at the receptor level. These experiments, conducted with model systems ranging from clonal cell lines to whole animals, have identified a number of important adaptive mechanisms which occur at the receptor level. However, none of these adaptive mechanisms can completely account for the phenomena which serve to define the state of morphine tolerance and dependence, especially the observation that as an animal becomes more tolerant to morphine, less naloxone is required to trigger withdrawal. The data reviewed in this paper provide strong support for the hypothesis that the brain synthesizes and secretes neuropeptides which act as part of a homeostatic system to attenuate the effects of morphine and endogenous opioid peptides. According to this model, administration of morphine releases anti-opioid peptides (AOP), which then attenuate the effects of morphine. As more morphine is given, more AOP are released, thereby producing tolerance to the effects of morphine. Cessation of morphine administration, or administration of naloxone, produces a relative excess of anti-opioid, which is in part responsible for the withdrawal syndrome. Since endogenous and exogenous antagonists might together produce synergistic effects, less naloxone might be required to trigger withdrawal in the presence of higher levels of AOPs. Although the study of AOP is in its infancy, a deeper understanding of the central nervous system (CNS) anti-opioid systems may lead to new treatments for chronic pain, substance abuse, and psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Dynorphins / physiology
  • Endorphins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Humans
  • Morphine / pharmacology*
  • Neuropeptides / physiology
  • Oligopeptides / physiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*


  • Endorphins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Oligopeptides
  • Dynorphins
  • Morphine
  • phenylalanyl-leucyl-phenylalanyl-glutaminyl-prolyl-glutaminyl-arginyl-phenylalaninamide