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Gen Pharmacol. 1996 Oct;27(7):1099-107.

The dermorphin peptide family.

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Institute of Medical Pharmacology, University of Rome, La Sapienza, Italy.


1. In 1980, the skin of certain frogs belonging to the genus Phyllomedusinae was found to contain two new peptides that proved to be selective mu-opioid agonists. Given the name dermorphins, these were the first members of a peptide family that in the past 15 years has grown to reach a total of seven naturally occurring peptides and nearly 30 synthetic analogs. 2. Dermorphin peptides are potent analgesics in rodents and primates, including man. Some dermorphins can enter the blood-brain barrier and produce central antinociception after peripheral administration. 3. The dermorphin family also includes mu 1-opioid receptor selective agonists that produce intense opioid analgesia, but stimulate pulmonary ventilation. 4. Experiments in rats and mice chronically exposed to dermorphins have shown that not only do they have higher antinociceptive efficacy and potency than morphine, but they are also less likely than morphine to produce tolerance, dependence and opiate side effects.

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