Discovery of positive allosteric modulators and silent allosteric modulators of the μ-opioid receptor.

Authors: Burford NT, Clark MJ, Wehrman TS, Gerritz SW, Banks M, O’Connell J, Traynor JR and Alt A.
Publisher/Year: Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110(26):10830-5.
Pub Med ID/Journal ID: PMID:23754417


μ-Opioid receptors are among the most studied G protein-coupled receptors because of the therapeutic value of agonists, such as morphine, that are used to treat chronic pain. However, these drugs have significant side effects, such as respiratory suppression, constipation, allodynia, tolerance, and dependence, as well as abuse potential. Efforts to fine tune pain control while alleviating the side effects of drugs, both physiological and psychological, have led to the development of a wide variety of structurally diverse agonist ligands for the μ-opioid receptor, as well as compounds that target κ- and δ-opioid receptors. In recent years, the identification of allosteric ligands for some G protein-coupled receptors has provided breakthroughs in obtaining receptor subtype-selectivity that can reduce the overall side effect profiles of a potential drug. However, positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) can also have the specific advantage of only modulating the activity of the receptor when the orthosteric agonist occupies the receptor, thus maintaining spatial and temporal control of receptor signaling in vivo. This second advantage of allosteric modulators may yield breakthroughs in opioid receptor research and could lead to drugs with improved side-effect profiles or fewer tolerance and dependence issues compared with orthosteric opioid receptor agonists. Here, we describe the discovery and characterization of μ-opioid receptor PAMs and silent allosteric modulators, identified from high-throughput screening using a β-arrestin-recruitment assay.