Agonist-specific regulation of the delta-opioid receptor

Life Sci. 2004 Dec 24;76(6):599-612. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2004.07.020.


Delta opioid receptor (DOR) agonists are attractive potential analgesics, since these compounds exhibit strong antinociceptive activity with relatively few side effects. In the past decade, several novel classes of delta-opioid agonists have been synthesized. Recent experimental data indicate that structurally distinct opioid agonists interact differently with the delta-opioid receptor. Consequently, individual agonist-bound DOR conformations may interact differently with intracellular proteins. In the present paper, after a brief review of the cellular processes that contribute to homologous desensitization of the DOR signaling, we shall focus on experimental data demonstrating that chemically different agonists differ in their ability to phosphorylate, internalize, and/or down-regulate the DOR. Homologous regulation of the opioid receptor signaling is thought to play an important role in the development of opioid tolerance. Therefore, agonist-specific differences in DOR regulation suggest that by further chemical modification, delta-selective opioid analgesics can be designed that exhibit a reduced propensity for analgesic tolerance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Arrestins / metabolism
  • Down-Regulation
  • Humans
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / agonists*
  • beta-Arrestins


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Arrestins
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta
  • beta-Arrestins