, Volume 115, Issue 1–2, pp 135–140 | Cite as

μ-Opioid receptor and α2-adrenoceptor agonist binding sites in the postmortem brain of heroin addicts

  • Ane M. Gabilondo
  • J. Javier Meana
  • Fernando Barturen
  • Magdalena Sastre
  • Jesús A. García-Sevilla
Original Investigations


The biochemical status of human brain μ-opioid receptors and α2-adrenoceptors during opiate dependence was studied by means of the binding of [3H] [D-Ala2, MePhe4, Gly-ol5] enkephalin (DAGO) and [3H]clonidine, respectively, in postmortem brains of heroin addicts who had died by opiate overdose or other causes. In the frontal cortex, thalamus and caudate of heroin addicts the density (Bmax) and affinity (KD) of μ-opioid receptors were similar to those in controls. In contrast, the density of α2-adrenoceptors in heroin addicts was found to be significantly decreased in frontal cortex (Bmax 31% lower), hypothalamus (Bmax 40% lower) and caudate (Bmax 32% lower) without changes in KD values. When heroin addicts were divided into two subgroups according to the presence or absence of morphine in body fluids, only the group with positive screening for morphine showed relevant decreases in brain α2-adrenoceptor density (Bmax 36–48% lower), whereas the decreases in receptor density observed in the subgroup with negative screening for morphine did not reach statistical significance. The results suggest that desensitization of brain α2A-adrenceptors is a relevant adaptative receptor mechanism during opiate addiction in humans.

Key words

Heroin addicts Postmortem human brain α2-Adrenoceptors μ-Opioid receptors Opiate addiction 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ane M. Gabilondo
    • 1
  • J. Javier Meana
    • 1
  • Fernando Barturen
    • 1
  • Magdalena Sastre
    • 2
  • Jesús A. García-Sevilla
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PharmacologyUniversity of the Basque CountryLeioa, BizkaiaSpain
  2. 2.Laboratory of Neuropharmacology, Department of Fundamental Biology and Health SciencesUniversity of the Balearic IslandsPalma de MallorcaSpain

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