RGS proteins: new players in the field of opioid signaling and tolerance mechanisms

Anesth Analg. 2005 Apr;100(4):1034-42. doi: 10.1213/01.ANE.0000147711.51122.4B.


In this article we review recent advances in our understanding of the crucial role of the Regulator of G protein Signaling (RGS) proteins in opioid signaling mechanisms and opioid tolerance development. Opioids exert their physiologic effects via complex G protein-coupled receptor-signaling mechanisms, and RGS proteins are now known to tightly regulate the G protein signaling cycle. RGS proteins contain GTPase-accelerating protein activity within their characteristic RGS domain and various other receptor signaling-related properties of their other functional domains. There have been more than 20 RGS proteins reported in the literature, and multiple RGS proteins have been shown to negatively regulate G protein-mediated opioid signaling, facilitate opioid receptor desensitization and internalization, and affect the rate at which opioid tolerance develops. Using RGS proteins as targets for future drug therapy aimed at modulating opioid effectiveness in both acute and chronic pain settings may be an important advance in the treatment of pain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Humans
  • RGS Proteins / physiology*
  • Receptors, Opioid / drug effects
  • Receptors, Opioid / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • RGS Proteins
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • nociceptin receptor