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Trends Neurosci. 2012 Oct;35(10):587-96. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2012.05.005. Epub 2012 Jun 16.

κ-opioid receptor/dynorphin system: genetic and pharmacotherapeutic implications for addiction.

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Laboratory of the Biology of Addictive Diseases, The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, NY 10065, USA.


Addictions to cocaine or heroin/prescription opioids [short-acting μ-opioid receptor (MOPr) agonists] involve relapsing cycles, with experimentation/escalating use, withdrawal/abstinence, and relapse/re-escalation. κ-Opioid receptors (KOPr; encoded by OPRK1), and their endogenous agonists, the dynorphins (encoded by PDYN), have counter-modulatory effects on reward caused by cocaine or MOPr agonist exposure, and exhibit plasticity in addictive-like states. KOPr/dynorphin activation is implicated in depression/anxiety, often comorbid with addictions. In this opinion article we propose that particular stages of the addiction cycle are differentially affected by KOPr/dynorphin systems. Vulnerability and resilience can be due to pre-existing (e.g., genetic) factors, or epigenetic modifications of the OPRK1 or PDYN genes during the addiction cycle. Pharmacotherapeutic approaches limiting changes in KOPr/dynorphin tone, especially with KOPr partial agonists, may hold potential for the treatment of specific drug addictions and psychiatric comorbidity.

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