Research Article

Genetic behavioral screen identifies an orphan anti-opioid system

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Science  15 Aug 2019:
eaau2078
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau2078

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Abstract

Opioids target the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) to produce unrivaled pain management but their addictive properties can lead to severe abuse. We developed a whole animal behavioral platform for unbiased discovery of genes influencing opioid responsiveness. Using forward genetics in C. elegans, we identified a conserved orphan receptor, GPR139, with anti-opioid activity. GPR139 is coexpressed with MOR in opioid-sensitive brain circuits, binds to MOR and inhibits signaling to G proteins. Deletion of GPR139 in mice enhanced opioid-induced inhibition of neuronal firing to modulate morphine-induced analgesia, reward, and withdrawal. Thus, GPR139 could be a useful target for increasing opioid safety. These results also demonstrate the potential of C. elegans as a scalable platform for genetic discovery of GPCR signaling principles.

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