Nociceptin/orphanin FQ receptor antagonists as innovative antidepressant drugs.Pharmacol Ther 2013; 140(1):10-25P&T
Nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) and its receptor (NOP) were identified in the mid 90s as a novel peptidergic system structurally related to opioids. A growing body of preclinical evidence suggests that blockade of NOP receptors evokes antidepressant-like actions. These have been explored using a range of compounds (peptide and non peptide antagonists), across different species (rat and mouse) and assays (behavioral despair and chronic mild stress) suggesting a robust and consistent antidepressant-like effect. Moreover, rats and mice knockout for the NOP receptor gene display an antidepressant-like phenotype in behavioral despair assays. Electrophysiological, immunohistochemical and neurochemical studies point to an important role played by monoaminergic systems, particularly 5-HTergic, in mediating the antidepressant-like properties of NOP antagonists. However other putative mechanisms of action, including modulation of the CRF system, circadian rhythm and a possible neuroendocrine-immune control might be involved. A close relationship between the N/OFQ-NOP receptor system and stress responses is well described in the literature. Stressful situations also alter endocrine, behavioral and neurochemical parameters in rats and chronic administration of a NOP antagonist restored these alterations. Interestingly, clinical findings showed that plasma N/OFQ levels were significantly altered in major and post-partum depression, and bipolar disease patients. Collectively, data in the literature support the notion that blockade of NOP receptor signaling could be a novel and interesting strategy for the development of innovative antidepressants.