Ph.D., Department of Pharmacology
UT Health San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
|• G protein coupled receptors||• signal transduction|
|• ligand functional selectivity||• constitutive receptor activity|
|• opioids||• serotonin|
Our work centers on questions concerning the molecular nature of drug efficacy and the mechanisms by which the efficacy of drugs can be regulated. Our current projects include studies on the regulation of opioid receptor agonist efficacy in primary sensory neurons, determination of the role of opioid receptor heteromers in peripheral mechanisms of analgesia and measurement of functional selectivity profiles of kappa opioid receptor ligands.
The management of pain represents a major medical and scientific challenge. Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined, yet it is one of the most poorly treated conditions in primary care and accounts for less than 1% of total NIH funding. Opioids represent a major drug class for the treatment of pain, however there are major drawbacks to their systemic use. In addition to serious adverse effects (e.g., dependence, tolerance, sedation), there are social and legal issues that limit their use. Consequently, there has been considerable interest in the peripheral analgesic effects of opioids since this approach may offer improved therapeutic outcomes. Currently we study mechanisms involved in the regulation of agonist efficacy at all three major opioid receptors, mu (MOR), delta (DOR) and kappa (KOR) receptor systems expressed on primary (peripheral) sensory neurons. We utilize primary cultures of adult rat sensory neurons as well as rat behavioral models of peripheral nociception for these studies. The results of this work will lead to a better understanding of the cellular factors involved in regulating opioid agonist efficacy and may lead to novel approaches for the management of pain.
Originally thought to function only as receptor monomers, it is now known that G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) also function as homo- and heterodimeric complexes (between different receptor subtypes) and perhaps even as higher order oligomers. Receptor heteromers are attractive targets for pharmacotherapy as allosteric interactions that can occur between protomers of a given heteromer may be exploited to regulate drug efficacy. Currently we study the function of opioid receptor heteromers in peripheral sensory neurons in culture and in rat behavioral models of peripheral nociception with the ultimate goal of identifying new pharmacological targets for improved pain therapy.
Ligand functional selectivity is a term used to describe the ability of drugs to differentially activate signaling cascades coupled to a single receptor subtype. The mechanism underlying functional selectivity is based upon the capacity of ligands with different chemical structures to promote different spectra of receptor protein conformations. Since these receptor conformations can interact differently with cellular signal transduction molecules (e.g. G proteins, ß-arrestins, etc.), the profile of cellular signaling produced is differs for different ligands. Importantly, differences in the functional selectivity profile between drugs acting at the same receptor subtype may underlie differences in therapeutic efficacy and/or adverse effect liability. We were among the first to describe ligand functional selectivity for both agonists and inverse agonists that target serotonin receptors. Currently we are determining functional selectivity profiles for ligands that target kappa opioid receptors in primary sensory neurons.
- Jamshidi, RJ., Jacobs, BA., Sullivan, LC., Chavera, TA., Saylor, RM., Prisinzano,, TE., Clarke, WP. and †Berg, KA. (2015) Functional selectivity of kappa opioid receptor (KOR) agonists in peripheral sensory neurons. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. Nov;355(2):174-82 [epub 2015 Aug 21]
- Sullivan, LC., Clarke, WP. and †Berg KA. (2015) Atypical antipsychotics and inverse agonism at 5-HT2 receptors. Curr Pharm Des. 21(26): 3732-8
- Sullivan, LC., Berg, KA. and Clarke WP. (2015) Dual Regulation of δ-opioid receptor function by arachidonic acid metabolites in rat peripheral sensory neurons. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. Apr;353(1):44-51
- Clarke, WP., Chavera, TA., Silva, M., Sullivan, LC. and Berg, KA. (2013) Signaling profile differences: paliperidone versus risperidone. Br J Pharmacol. 170: 532-545. PMCID: 3791992
- Berg, KA., Rowan, MP, Gupta, A., Sanchez, TA., Silva, M., Gomes, I., McGuire, BA., Portoghese, PS., Hargreaves, KM., Devi, LA. and Clarke, WP. (2012) Allosteric interactions between delta and kappa opioid receptors in peripheral sensory neurons. Mol Pharmacol 81:264-272. PMCID: 3263945
Elaine Jennings, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Teresa Chavera, Senior Research Associate
Hudson Smith, Research Assistant
Joshua Zamora, Research Assistant
Miryam Pando, Neuroscience Graduate Student