Characterization of opiates, neuroleptics, and synthetic analogs at ORL1 and opioid receptors

Nurulain Zaveri, Willma E. Polgar, Cris M. Olsen, Andrew B. Kelson, Peter Grundt, John W. Lewis, Lawrence Toll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) was recently identified as the endogenous ligand for the opioid-receptor like (ORL1) receptor. Although the ORL1 receptor shows sequence homology with the opioid receptors, the nociceptin/ORL1 ligand-receptor system has very distinct pharmacological actions compared to the opioid receptor system. Recently, several small-molecule ORL1 receptor ligands were reported by pharmaceutical companies. Most of these ligands had close structural similarities with known neuroleptics and opiates. In this study, we screened several available neuroleptics and opiates for their binding affinity and functional activity at ORL1 and the opioid receptors. We also synthesized several analogs of known opiates with modified piperidine N-substituents in order to characterize the ORL1 receptor ligand binding pocket. Substitution with the large, lipophilic cyclooctylmethyl moiety increased ORL1 receptor affinity and decreased μ receptor affinity and efficacy in the fentanyl series of ligands but had a different effect in the oripavine class of opiate ligands. Our results indicate that opiates and neuroleptics may be good starting points for ORL1 receptor ligand design, and the selectivity may be modulated by appropriate structural modifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-36
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 28 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIDA grant DA06682 to LT and NIDA grant DA07315 to JL.


  • Nociceptin/orphanin FQ
  • ORL1 receptor
  • Opioid receptor
  • Structure activity
  • [S]GTPγS binding


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