Morphine: new aspects in the study of an ancient compound.
Life Sci. 1994;55(13):969-79. PMID: 8084213
Institute of Biochemistry, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Szeged.
Morphine is the most widely used compound among narcotic analgesics and remains the gold standard when the effects of other analgetic drugs are compared. Apart from its presence in the poppy plant Papaver somniferum, morphine has been shown to be present in milk, cerebrospinal fluid and also in nervous tissue extracts. Recent evidence suggests that biosynthetic pathways for morphine exist in animal and even human tissues such as liver, blood and brain. The most characteristic effect of morphine is the modulation of pain perception resulting in an increase in the threshold of noxious stimuli. Antinociception induced by morphine is mediated via opioid receptors and therefore can be inhibited by opioid antagonists, e.g., naloxone. Nevertheless, consideration of morphine as endogenous ligand for opioid receptors seems to be speculative. Recently, the primary receptor for morphine-type drugs called the mu-opioid receptor has been cloned from rat brain. There is accumulating evidence that morphine actions are, at least partly, due to one of its major metabolite morphine-6-glucuronide in man. It is concluded that further investigations are necessary to elucidate the mechanisms, whereby multiple actions of morphine are expressed in the nervous system.