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Life Sci. 2003 Jun 27;73(6):663-78.

Peptide and nonpeptide ligands for the nociceptin/orphanin FQ receptor ORL1: research tools and potential therapeutic agents.

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Biosciences Division, Drug Discovery, SRI International, 333 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA.


The 17-amino acid neuropeptide nociceptin/Orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) was recently identified as the endogenous ligand for the opioid receptor-like (ORL1) receptor, a fourth member of the classical mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptor family. Although ORL1 clearly belongs to the opioid receptor family, it does not bind classical opiates and the ORL1-N/OFQ system has pharmacological actions distinct from the opioid receptor system. This new ligand-receptor system has generated active interest in the opioid community because of its wide distribution and involvement in a myriad of neurological pathways. The past two years have witnessed tremendous advances in the design and discovery of very potent and selective peptide and nonpeptide agonist and antagonist ligands at ORL1. These discoveries have facilitated the understanding of the role of the ORL1-N/OFQ system in a variety of processes such as pain modulation, anxiety, food intake, learning, memory, neurotransmitter release, reward pathways, and tolerance development. The ORL1 receptor therefore represents a new molecular target for the design of novel agents for anxiety, analgesia, and drug addiction. Indeed, there is tremendous interest in the pharmaceutical industry in the development of nonpeptide ligands such as the potent ORL1 agonist, Ro 64-6198, as anxiolytics and the ORL1 antagonist JTC-801 as novel analgesics. This review presents an overview of the various peptide and nonpeptide ORL1 ligands with an emphasis on their potential therapeutic utility in various human disorders.

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