Delta Opioid Pharmacology in Relation to Alcohol Behaviors

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2018:247:199-225. doi: 10.1007/164_2016_30.


Delta opioid receptors (DORs) are heavily involved in alcohol-mediated processes in the brain. In this chapter we provide an overview of studies investigating how alcohol directly impacts DOR pharmacology and of early studies indicating DOR modulation of alcohol behavior. We will offer a brief summary of the different animal species used in alcohol studies investigating DORs followed by a broader overview of the types of alcohol behaviors modulated by DORs. We will highlight a small set of studies investigating the relationship between alcohol and DORs in analgesia. We will then provide an anatomical overview linking DOR expression in specific brain regions to different alcohol behaviors. In this section, we will provide two models that try to explain how endogenous opioids acting at DORs may influence alcohol behaviors. Next, we will provide an overview of studies investigating certain new aspects of DOR pharmacology, including the formation of heteromers and biased signaling. Finally, we provide a short overview of the genetics of the DORs in relation to alcohol use disorders (AUDs) and a short statement on the potential of using DOR-based therapeutics for treatment of AUDs.

Keywords: Alcohol use disorder; Behavioral models; Delta opioid receptor; Enkephalin; Genetics; Medication development; Pharmacology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / genetics
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / physiology
  • Reward


  • Receptors, Opioid, delta