Disease-specific heteromerization of G-protein-coupled receptors that target drugs of abuse

Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2013:117:207-65. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-386931-9.00009-X.


Drugs of abuse such as morphine or marijuana exert their effects through the activation of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), the opioid and cannabinoid receptors, respectively. Moreover, interactions between either of these receptors have been shown to be involved in the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse. Recent advances in the field, using a variety of approaches, have demonstrated that many GPCRs, including opioid, cannabinoid, and dopamine receptors, can form associations between different receptor subtypes or with other GPCRs to form heteromeric complexes. The formation of these complexes, in turn, leads to the modulation of the properties of individual protomers. The development of tools that can selectively disrupt GPCR heteromers as well as monoclonal antibodies that can selectively block signaling by specific heteromer pairs has indicated that heteromers involving opioid, cannabinoid, or dopamine receptors may play a role in various disease states. In this review, we describe evidence for opioid, cannabinoid, and dopamine receptor heteromerization and the potential role of GPCR heteromers in pathophysiological conditions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / metabolism*
  • Protein Multimerization*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism*


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled