Opioids pp 471-497 | Cite as

Anatomy and Function of the Endogenous Opioid Systems

  • H. Khachaturian
  • M. K. H. Schaefer
  • M. E. Lewis
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 104 / 1)


The endogenous opioid systems constitute three distinct neuronal systems that are widely distributed throughout the central nervous system (CNS). The three opioid precursors found in these neurons, proopiomelanocortin (POMC), proenkephalin (PENK), and prodynorphin (PDYN), each contain numerous biologically active products that are released at the synaptic terminals of opioidergic neurons. These peptides exert their physiological actions by interacting with various classes of opioid receptor types (μ, δ, к) present on both pre- and postsynaptic membranes of opioid and opioid- target neurons. Opioid neurotransmission appears to influence many CNS functions, including nociception, cardiovascular regulation, respiration, neuroendocrine and neuroimmune activity, thermoregulation, and consummatory, sexual, aggressive, locomotor, and hedonic behavior, as well as learning and memory (Adler et al. 1988; Herz and Millan 1988; Khachaturian et al. 1988; Martinez et al. 1988; Pasternak 1988; Stefano 1989). Opioid peptides have also been implicated either directly or indirectly in the pathophysiology of several neurological, addictive, or psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, stroke, epilepsy, brain and spinal cord injury, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, manic-depressive illness, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia (Nemeroff and Bissette 1986; Watson et al. 1986; Topel 1988; Kaye et al. 1989; Gulya 1990).


Opioid Receptor Opioid Peptide Arcuate Nucleus Nucleus Tractus Solitarius Endogenous Opioid System 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Khachaturian
  • M. K. H. Schaefer
  • M. E. Lewis

There are no affiliations available

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