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Functional Interactions between Endogenous Cannabinoid and Opioid Systems: Focus on Alcohol, Genetics and Drug-Addicted Behaviors

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Although the first studies regarding the endogenous opioid system and addiction were published during the 1940s, addiction and cannabinoids were not addressed until the 1970s. Currently, the number of opioid addiction studies indexed in PubMed-Medline is 16 times greater than the number of cannabinoid addiction reports. More recently, functional interactions have been demonstrated between the endogenous cannabinoid and opioid systems. For example, the cannabinoid brain receptor type 1 (CB1) and mu opioid receptor type 1 (MOR1) co-localize in the same presynaptic nerve terminals and signal through a common receptor-mediated G-protein pathway. Here, we review a great variety of behavioral models of drug addiction and alcohol-related behaviors. We also include data providing clear evidence that activation of the cannabinoid and opioid endogenous systems via WIN 55,512-2 (0.4-10 mg/kg) and morphine (1.0-10 mg/kg), respectively, produces similar levels of relapse to alcohol in operant alcohol self-administration tasks. Finally, we discuss genetic studies that reveal significant associations between polymorphisms in MOR1 and CB1 receptors and drug addiction. For example, the SNP A118G, which changes the amino acid aspartate to asparagine in the MOR1 gene, is highly associated with altered opioid system function. The presence of a microsatellite polymorphism of an (AAT)n triplet near the CB1 gene is associated with drug addiction phenotypes. But, studies exploring haplotypes with regard to both systems, however, are lacking.

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Keywords: CNR1; Drug addiction; OPRM1; alcohol; human; mouse; prefrontal cortex; rat

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-04-01

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  • Current Drug Targets aims to cover the latest and most outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry and pharmacology of molecular drug targets e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will be devoted to a single timely topic, with series of in-depth reviews, written by leaders in the field, covering a range of current topics on drug targets. These issues will be organized and led by a guest editor who is a recognized expert in the overall topic. As the discovery, identification, characterisation and validation of novel human drug targets for drug discovery continues to grow; this journal will be essential reading for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug discovery and development.
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