The therapeutic potential of nociceptin/orphanin FQ receptor agonists as analgesics without abuse liability

ACS Chem Neurosci. 2013 Feb 20;4(2):214-24. doi: 10.1021/cn300124f. Epub 2012 Nov 6.


Although mu opioid (MOP) receptor agonists are the most commonly used analgesics for the treatment of moderate to severe pain in the clinic, the side effects of MOP agonists such as abuse liability limit their value as a medication. Research to identify novel analgesics without adverse effects is pivotal to advance the health care of humans. The nociceptin/orphanin FQ peptide (NOP) receptor, the fourth opioid receptor subtype, mediates distinctive actions in nonhuman primates which suggests the possibility that activity at this receptor may result in strong analgesia in the absence of virtually all of the side effects associated with MOP agonists. The present review highlights the recent progress of pharmacological studies of NOP-related ligands in primates. Selective NOP agonists, either peptidic or nonpeptidic, produce full analgesia in various assays in primates, when delivered systemically or intrathecally. Yet small molecule NOP agonists do not serve as reinforcers, indicating a lack of abuse liability. Given that NOP agonists have low abuse liability and that coactivation of NOP and MOP receptors produces synergistic antinociception, it is worth developing bifunctional NOP/MOP ligands. The outcomes of these studies and recent developments provide new perspectives to establish a translational bridge for understanding the biobehavioral functions of NOP receptors in primates and for facilitating the development of NOP-related ligands as a new generation of analgesics without abuse liability in humans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Azabicyclo Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Imidazoles / therapeutic use*
  • Macaca
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Receptors, Opioid / agonists*
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / agonists
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / agonists
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / agonists
  • Spiro Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*


  • 8-(bis(2-methylphenyl)methyl)-3-phenyl-8-azabicyclo(3.2.1)octan-3-ol
  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Azabicyclo Compounds
  • Imidazoles
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • Ro 64-6198
  • Spiro Compounds
  • nociceptin receptor