Transcriptional and epigenetic regulation of opioid receptor genes: Present and future

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Three opioid receptors (ORs) are known: μ opioid receptors (MORs), δ opioid receptors (DORs), and κ opioid receptors (KORs). Each is encoded by a distinct gene, and the three OR genes share a highly conserved genomic structure and promoter features, including an absence of TATA boxes and sensitivity to extracellular stimuli and epigenetic regulation. However, each of the genes is differentially expressed. Transcriptional regulation engages both basal and regulated transcriptional machineries and employs activating and silencingmechanisms. In retinoic acid-induced neuronal differentiation, the opioid receptor genes undergo drastically different chromatin remodeling processes and display varied patterns of epigenetic marks. Regulation of KOR expression is distinctly complex, and KOR exerts a unique function in neurite extension, indicating that KOR is not simply a pharmacological cousin of MOR and DOR. As the expression of OR proteins is ultimately controlled by extensive posttranscriptional processing, the pharmacological implication of OR gene regulation at the transcriptional level remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-97
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual review of pharmacology and toxicology
StatePublished - Feb 10 2011


  • chromatin remodeling
  • gene regulation
  • neuronal differentiation
  • retinoic acid
  • transcription factor


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