Our observations that opioid peptides have direct effects on islet insulin secretion and liver glucose production prompted a search for endogenous opiates and their receptors in these peripheral tissues. Mu-, delta- and kappa-receptor-active opiates were demonstrated in brain, pancreas and liver extracts by displacement studies using selective ligands for the three opiate receptor subtypes [(3H][D-Ala2,MePhe4,Gly5-ol]enkephalin, [3H][D-Ala2,D-Leu5]enkephalin and [3H]dynorphin respectively). Receptor-active opiates in brain extracts exhibited a stronger preference for delta-opiate-receptor sites than for mu and kappa sites. Pancreatic extract opiates demonstrated a similar activity at mu and delta sites, but substantially less at kappa sites. Liver extracts displayed similar selectivity for all three sites. The affinities of the receptor-active opiates for mu-, delta- and kappa-receptor subtypes displayed a rank order of potency: brain much greater than pancreas greater than liver. Total immunoreactive beta-endorphin and [Met5]enkephalin levels in liver and hepatocytes were greater than those in brain. Immunoreactive [Met5]enkephalin levels in pancreas were similar to, but beta-endorphin levels were substantially higher than, those in brain. Delta and kappa opiate-binding sites of high affinity were identified in crude membrane preparations of islets of Langerhans, but no specific opiate-binding sites could be demonstrated in liver membrane preparations. Immunoreactive dynorphin and beta-endorphin were demonstrated by immunogold labelling in rat pancreatic islet cells. No positive staining of liver sections for opioids was observed. These results suggest that the tissue content of opiate-receptor-active compounds in the pancreas and the liver is very significant and could contribute to the regulation of normal blood glucose levels.
The occurrence and receptor specificity of endogenous opioid peptides within the pancreas and liver of the rat. Comparison with brain
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X Z Khawaja, I C Green, J R Thorpe, M A Titheradge; The occurrence and receptor specificity of endogenous opioid peptides within the pancreas and liver of the rat. Comparison with brain. Biochem J 1 April 1990; 267 (1): 233–240. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/bj2670233
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