The beta-endorphin role in stress-related psychiatric disorders

Curr Drug Targets. 2009 Nov;10(11):1096-108. doi: 10.2174/138945009789735147.


Long known for its anti-nociceptive effects, the opioid beta-endorphin is also reported to have rewarding and reinforcing properties and to be involved in stress response. In this manuscript we summarize the present neurobiological and behavioral evidence regarding the role of beta-endorphin in stress-related psychiatric disorders, depression and PTSD. There is existing data that support the importance of beta-endorphin neurotransmission in mediating depression. As for PTSD, however, the data is thus far circumstantial. The studies described herein used diverse techniques, such as biochemical measurements of beta-endorphin in various brain sites and behavioral monitoring, in two animal models of depression and PTSD. We suggest that the pathways for stress-related psychiatric disorders, depression and PTSD, converge to a common pathway in which beta-endorphin is a modulating element of distress. This may occur via its interaction with the mesolimbic monoaminergic system and also by its interesting effects on learning and memory. The possible involvement of beta-endorphin in the process of stress-related psychiatric disorders, depression and PTSD, is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Memory / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • beta-Endorphin / physiology*


  • beta-Endorphin