The dynorphin / kappa opioid receptor (KOR) system has been implicated in many aspects that influence neuropsychiatric disorders. Namely, this system modulates neural circuits that primarily regulate reward seeking, motivation processing, stress responsivity, and pain sensitivity, thus affecting the development of substance and alcohol use disorder (AUD). The effects of this system are often bidirectional and depend on projection targets. To date, a majority of the studies focusing on this system have examined the KOR function using agonists and antagonists. Indeed, there are studies that have examined prodynorphin and dynorphin levels by measuring mRNA and tissue content levels; however, static levels of the neuropeptide and its precursor do not explain complete and online function of the peptide as would be explained by measuring dynorphin transmission in real time. New and exciting methods using optogenetics, chemogenetics, genetic sensors, fast scan cyclic voltammetry are now being developed to detect various neuropeptides with a focus on opioid peptides, including dynorphin. In this review we discuss studies that examine dynorphin projections in areas involved in AUD, its functional involvement in AUD and vulnerability to develop AUD at various ages. Moreover, we discuss dynorphin's role in promoting AUD by dysregulation motivation circuits and how advancements in opioid peptide detection will further our understanding.
Keywords: Alcohol use disorder; Dynorphin; Motivation; Neuropeptide detection; Stress.
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