Abstract Title:

Dopamine, morphine, and nitric oxide: an evolutionary signaling triad.

Abstract Source:

CNS Neurosci Ther. 2010 Jun;16(3):e124-37. Epub 2009 Nov 13. PMID: 19912274

Abstract Author(s):

George B Stefano, Richard M Kream

Article Affiliation:

Neuroscience Research Institute, State University of New York-College at Old Westbury, USA. [email protected]


Morphine biosynthesis in relatively simple and complex integrated animal systems has been demonstrated. Key enzymes in the biosynthetic pathway have also been identified, that is, CYP2D6 and COMT. Endogenous morphine appears to exert highly selective actions via novel mu opiate receptor subtypes, that is, mu3,-4, which are coupled to constitutive nitric oxide release, exerting general yet specific down regulatory actions in various animal tissues. The pivotal role of dopamine as a chemical intermediate in the morphine biosynthetic pathway in plants establishes a functional basis for its expansion into an essential role as the progenitor catecholamine signaling molecule underlying neural and neuroendocrine transmission across diverse animal phyla. In invertebrate neural systems, dopamine serves as the preeminent catecholamine signaling molecule, with the emergence and limited utilization of norepinephrine in newly defined adaptational chemical circuits required by a rapidly expanding set of physiological demands, that is, motor and motivational networks. In vertebrates epinephrine, emerges as the major end of the catecholamine synthetic pathway consistent with a newly incorporated regulatory modification. Given the striking similarities between the enzymatic steps in the morphine biosynthetic pathway and those driving the evolutionary adaptation of catecholamine chemical species to accommodate an expansion of interactive but distinct signaling systems, it is our overall contention that the evolutionary emergence of catecholamine systems required conservation and selective "retrofit" of specific enzyme activities, that is, COMT, drawn from cellular morphine expression. Our compelling hypothesis promises to initiate the reexamination of clinical studies, adding new information and treatment modalities in biomedicine.

Study Type : Review

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