Dynorphin--still an extraordinarily potent opioid peptide

Mol Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;83(4):729-36. doi: 10.1124/mol.112.083337. Epub 2012 Nov 14.


This issue of Molecular Pharmacology is dedicated to Dr. Avram Goldstein, the journal's founding editor and one of the leaders in the development of modern pharmacology. This article focuses on his contributions to the discovery of the dynorphins and evidence that members of this family of opioid peptides are endogenous agonists for the kappa opioid receptor. In his original publication describing the purification and sequencing of dynorphin A, Avram described this peptide as "extraordinarily potent" ("dyn" from the Greek, dynamis = power and "orphin" for endogenous morphine peptide). The name originally referred to its high affinity and great potency in the bioassay that was used to follow its activity during purification, but the name has come to have a second meaning: studies of its physiologic function in brain continue to provide powerful insights to the molecular mechanisms controlling mood disorders and drug addiction. During the 30 years since its discovery, we have learned that the dynorphin peptides are released in brain during stress exposure. After they are released, they activate kappa opioid receptors distributed throughout the brain and spinal cord, where they trigger cellular responses resulting in different stress responses: analgesia, dysphoria-like behaviors, anxiety-like responses, and increased addiction behaviors in experimental animals. Avram predicted that a detailed molecular analysis of opiate drug actions would someday lead to better treatments for drug addiction, and he would be gratified to know that subsequent studies enabled by his discovery of the dynorphins resulted in insights that hold great promise for new treatments for addiction and depressive disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / physiology
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology
  • Dynorphins / chemistry*
  • Dynorphins / genetics
  • Dynorphins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Opioid Peptides / chemistry*
  • Opioid Peptides / genetics
  • Opioid Peptides / metabolism*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / genetics
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / metabolism


  • Opioid Peptides
  • Dynorphins