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Opioids and their antagonists alter vitamin C metabolism. Morphine binds to glutathione (l-γ-glutamyl-l-cysteinyl-glycine), an intracellular ascorbic acid recycling molecule with a wide range of additional activities. The morphine metabolite morphinone reacts with glutathione to form a covalent adduct that is then excreted in urine. Morphine also binds to adrenergic and histaminergic receptors in their extracellular loop regions, enhancing aminergic agonist activity. The first and second extracellular loops of adrenergic and histaminergic receptors are, like glutathione, characterized by the presence of cysteines and/or methionines, and recycle ascorbic acid with similar efficiency. Conversely, adrenergic drugs bind to extracellular loops of opioid receptors, enhancing their activity. These observations suggest functional interactions among opioids and amines, their receptors, and glutathione. We therefore explored the relative binding affinities of ascorbic acid, dehydroascorbic acid, opioid and adrenergic compounds, as well as various control compounds, to glutathione and glutathione-like peptides derived from the extracellular loop regions of the human beta 2-adrenergic, dopamine D1, histamine H1, and mu opioid receptors, as well as controls. Some cysteine-containing peptides derived from these receptors do bind ascorbic acid and/or dehydroascorbic acid and the same peptides generally bind opioid compounds. Glutathione binds not only morphine but also naloxone, methadone, and methionine enkephalin. Some adrenergic drugs also bind to glutathione and glutathione-like receptor regions. These sets of interactions provide a novel basis for understanding some ways that adrenergic, opioid and antioxidant systems interact during anesthesia and drug abuse and may have utility for understanding drug interactions.


Robert Root-Bernstein, Beth Churchill, Miah Turke. Glutathione and Glutathione-Like Sequences of Opioid and Aminergic Receptors Bind Ascorbic Acid, Adrenergic and Opioid Drugs Mediating Antioxidant Function: Relevance for Anesthesia and Abuse. International journal of molecular sciences. 2020 Aug 28;21(17)

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PMID: 32872204

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