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Life Sci. 1989;45(19):1721-32.

Dextromethorphan and sigma ligands: common sites but diverse effects.

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Department of Pharmacology, N.Y.U. Medical Center, NY 10016.


There is increasing evidence that sigma ligands and dextromethorphan (DM) bind to at least one common high-affinity site. DM and other antitussives do not produce psychotomimetic effects. This suggested that sigma ligands may produce their characteristic effects through another site, and prompted us to review critically the literature on the side effects of sigma opiates. Contrary to what is generally accepted, the dysphoric and psychotomimetic side effects of sigma opiates are mediated by the levo-and not by the dextrorotatory isomers. Moreover, these effects are unequivocally naloxone-reversible. Therefore, the current version of the "sigma receptor", with high affinity for the dextrorotatory sigma opiates, cannot explain the psychotomimetic effects of the levorotatory enantiomers. Thus, neither the "sigma ligands" nor its newly defined "receptor" are involved in the psychotomimetic effects of sigma opiates. Further experimentation with more selective drugs and with a combination of different methods will be necessary to identify the different binding sites, and to establish their physiological role and therapeutic potential.

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