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The neurokinins are a class of peptide signaling molecules that mediate a range of central and peripheral functions including pain processing, gastrointestinal function, stress responses, and anxiety. Recent data have linked these neuropeptides with drug-related behaviors. Specifically, substance P (SP) and neurokinin B (NKB), have been shown to influence responses to alcohol, cocaine, and/or opiate drugs. SP and NKB preferentially bind to the neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) and neurokinin-3 receptor (NK3R), respectively, but do have some affinity for all classes of neurokinin receptor at high concentrations. NK1R activity has been shown to influence reward and reinforcement for opiate drugs, stimulatory and neurochemical responses to cocaine, and escalated and stress-induced alcohol seeking. In reinstatement models of relapse-like behavior, NK1R antagonism attenuates stress-induced reinstatement for all classes of drugs tested to date. The NK3R also influences alcohol intake and behavioral/neurochemical responses to cocaine, but less research has been performed in regard to this particular receptor in preclinical models of addiction. Clinically, agents targeting these receptors have shown some promise, but have produced mixed results. Here, the preclinical findings for the NK1R and NK3R are reviewed, and discussion is provided to interpret clinical findings. Additionally, important factors to consider in regards to future clinical work are suggested. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Jesse R Schank. Neurokinin receptors in drug and alcohol addiction. Brain research. 2020 May 01;1734:146729

PMID: 32067964

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