[Dmt1]N/OFQ(1–13)-NH2: a potent nociceptin/orphanin FQ and opioid receptor universal agonist

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Intrathecally (i.t.) administered nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) evokes antinociceptive effects in rodents. Recent studies in monkeys demonstrated that i.t. co-application of N/OFQ and morphine elicits synergistic antinociceptive actions suggesting mixed N/OFQ peptide (NOP) and μ opioid receptor agonists as innovative spinal analgesics. Thus, novel N/OFQ related peptides were synthesized in order to identify and pharmacologically characterize a mixed NOP/ μ opioid receptor agonist.


The following in vitro assays were used: calcium mobilization in cells expressing the human NOP or classical opioid receptors and chimeric G proteins, receptor and [35S]-GTPγS binding, [35S]-GTPγS binding in rat spinal cord membranes, guinea pig ileum bioassay. In vivo experiments were performed in monkeys using the tail withdrawal assay.


From calcium mobilization studies [Dmt1]N/OFQ(1–13)-NH2 was selected as the most potent and least selective compound. The mixed NOP/opioid full agonist activity and high affinity of [Dmt1]N/OFQ(1–13)-NH2 was confirmed at human recombinant receptors in receptor binding, calcium mobilization and/or [35S]-GTPγS binding studies, at rat spinal cord receptors in [35S]-GTPγS binding experiments, and at guinea pig receptors inhibiting neurogenic contractions in the ileum. In vivo in the tail withdrawal assay in monkeys i.t. [Dmt1]N/OFQ(1–13)-NH2 was able to elicit robust and long-lasting antinociceptive effects.


Collectively, these results demonstrate that [Dmt1]N/OFQ(1–13)-NH2 behaves as NOP/opioid receptor universal agonist and substantiate the suggestion that such mixed ligands are worthy of development as innovative spinal analgesics.

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