At least three types of opioid receptors have been identified in the nervous system. In this paper we report molecular cloning and expression of a rat kappa opioid receptor. PCR was performed on double-stranded cDNA derived from poly(A)+ RNA of the rat striatum with primers similar to those of Libert and co-workers [Libert, Parmentier, Lefort, Dinsart, Van Sande, Maenhaut, Simons, Dumont and Vassart (1989) Science 244, 569-572]. One of the PCR products, which had 65% sequence similarity to the mouse delta opioid receptor, was used to screen a rat striatum cDNA library. Two positive clones were isolated and found to be identical. The clone had a 2.1-kb insert, which was termed RKOR-1. RKOR-1 has an open reading frame of 1140 bp and encodes a 380-amino-acid protein. Hydropathy analysis indicates that RKOR-1 has seven putative transmembrane domains with short intra- and extra-cellular loops. Membranes of Cos-7 cells transfected with RKOR-1 exhibited high specific binding for [3H]diprenorphine ([3H]DIP), a non-selective opioid ligand. Naloxone inhibited [3H]DIP binding with stereospecificity. [3H]DIP binding was potently inhibited by selective kappa opioid ligands, with Ki values in the nanomolar or subnanomolar range, but much less potently inhibited by drugs selective for mu or delta receptors. Thus, RKOR-1 represents an opioid receptor with kappa characteristics.

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