mu Opioid receptor

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Opioid receptor, mu 1
Symbols OPRM1 ; MOR1; KIAA0403; OPRM
External IDs Template:OMIM5 Template:MGI HomoloGene37368
RNA expression pattern
File:PBB GE OPRM1 211359 s at tn.png
More reference expression data
Template:GNF Ortholog box
Species Human Mouse
Entrez n/a n/a
Ensembl n/a n/a
UniProt n/a n/a
RefSeq (mRNA) n/a n/a
RefSeq (protein) n/a n/a
Location (UCSC) n/a n/a
PubMed search n/a n/a
File:Mu-opioid receptor.png
Active and inactive mu-opioid receptors.[1]

The μ opioid receptors (MOR) are a class of opioid receptors with high affinity for enkephalins and beta-endorphin but low affinity for dynorphins. The opiate alkaloids morphine and codeine are known to bind to this receptor.


There are three known variants of the mu opioid receptor.[2]

More is known about the mu 1 opioid receptor than is known about the other types, but some information does exist. TRIMU 5 is a selective agonist of the mu-2 receptor.[3]

In 2003, a mu-3 variant was described,[4] which was responsive to opiate alkaloids but not opioid peptides.[5]


They can exist either presynaptically or postsynaptically depending upon cell types.

The μ-receptors exist mostly presynaptically in the periaqueductal gray region, and in the superficial dorsal horn of the spinal cord (specifically the substantia gelatinosa of Rolando). Other areas where μ-receptors have been located include the external plexiform layer of the olfactory bulb, the nucleus accumbens, in several layers of the cerebral cortex and in some of the nuclei of the amygdala, as well as the nucleus of the solitary tract.


MOR can mediate acute changes in neuronal excitability via "disinhibition" of presynaptic release of GABA (see works from Charles Chavkin and Roger Nicoll). Activation of the MOR leads to different effects on dendritic spines depending upon the agonist, and may be an example of functional selectivity at the mu opioid receptor (see works from Dezhi Liao and Horace Loh). The physiological and pathological roles of these two distinct mechanisms remain to be clarified. Perhaps, both might be involved in opioid addiction and opioid-induced deficits in cognition.

Activation of the μ receptor by an agonist such as morphine causes analgesia, sedation, slightly reduced blood pressure, itching, nausea, euphoria, decreased respiration, miosis (constricted pupils) and decreased bowel motility often leading to constipation. Some of these side effects, such as sedation, euphoria and decreased respiration, tend to lessen with continued use as tolerance develops. Analgesia, miosis and reduced bowel motility tend to persist; little tolerance develops to these effects.

Tolerance and overdoses

Tolerance to respiratory depression develops quickly. In the drug naïve individual respiratory depression is the primary way overdoses kill. Less commonly massive overdoses have been known to cause circulatory collapse.

Opioid overdoses can be rapidly reversed with any of several opioid antagonists: naloxone, or naltrexone, differing primarily in their duration of action and potency. While commonly referred to as antagonists, and when used to treat an overdose they do appear to function as such, naloxone & naltrexone are inverse agonists.


  1. Zhorov BS, Ananthanarayanan VS. Homology models of mu-opioid receptor with organic and inorganic cations at conserved aspartates in the second and third transmembrane domains. Arch Biochem Biophys. 37:31-49, 2000.
  2. Dortch-Carnes J, Russell K (2007). "Morphine-stimulated nitric oxide release in rabbit aqueous humor". Exp. Eye Res. 84 (1): 185–90. doi:10.1016/j.exer.2006.09.014. PMID 17094965.
  3. Eisenberg RM (1994). "TRIMU-5, a mu 2-opioid receptor agonist, stimulates the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis". Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 47 (4): 943–6. PMID 8029266.
  4. Cadet P, Mantione KJ, Stefano GB (2003). "Molecular identification and functional expression of mu 3, a novel alternatively spliced variant of the human mu opiate receptor gene". J. Immunol. 170 (10): 5118–23. PMID 12734358.
  5. Stefano GB (2004). "Endogenous morphine: a role in wellness medicine". Med. Sci. Monit. 10 (6): ED5. PMID 15173675.

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