Presynaptic G Protein-Coupled Receptors: Gatekeepers of Addiction?

Front Cell Neurosci. 2016 Nov 11:10:264. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2016.00264. eCollection 2016.


Drug abuse and addiction cause widespread social and public health problems, and the neurobiology underlying drug actions and drug use and abuse is an area of intensive research. Drugs of abuse alter synaptic transmission, and these actions contribute to acute intoxication as well as the chronic effects of abused substances. Transmission at most mammalian synapses involves neurotransmitter activation of two receptor subtypes, ligand-gated ion channels that mediate fast synaptic responses and G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that have slower neuromodulatory actions. The GPCRs represent a large proportion of neurotransmitter receptors involved in almost all facets of nervous system function. In addition, these receptors are targets for many pharmacotherapeutic agents. Drugs of abuse directly or indirectly affect neuromodulation mediated by GPCRs, with important consequences for intoxication, drug taking and responses to prolonged drug exposure, withdrawal and addiction. Among the GPCRs are several subtypes involved in presynaptic inhibition, most of which are coupled to the Gi/o class of G protein. There is increasing evidence that these presynaptic Gi/o-coupled GPCRs have important roles in the actions of drugs of abuse, as well as behaviors related to these drugs. This topic will be reviewed, with particular emphasis on receptors for three neurotransmitters, Dopamine (DA; D1- and D2-like receptors), Endocannabinoids (eCBs; CB1 receptors) and glutamate (group II metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors). The focus is on recent evidence from laboratory animal models (and some evidence in humans) implicating these receptors in the acute and chronic effects of numerous abused drugs, as well as in the control of drug seeking and taking. The ability of drugs targeting these receptors to modify drug seeking behavior has raised the possibility of using compounds targeting these receptors for addiction pharmacotherapy. This topic is also discussed, with emphasis on development of mGlu2 positive allosteric modulators (PAMs).

Keywords: CB1 receptor; GPCR; addiction; allosteric modulator; dopamine receptor; metabotropic glutamate receptor; presynaptic; self-administration.

Publication types

  • Review