Several lines of data support the existence of two classes of delta receptors: the delta cx binding site, which is the delta binding site of the mu-delta opioid receptor complex, and the delta ncx, which is the noncomplexed delta receptor. [D-Ala2,Leu5,Cys6]Enkephalin (DALCE) is an extended analog of [Leu5]enkephalin, which has been shown to bind irreversibly to delta receptors via the terminal cysteine by formation of a disulfide bond with the receptor. In vivo studies have shown that DALCE produces short-lived antinociceptive actions, followed by long-term antagonism of delta receptor-mediated antinociception. The major goal of the present study was to examine the effect of DALCE on the delta cx and delta ncx binding sites in vitro and in vivo. Intracerebroventricular administration of 40 micrograms DALCE failed to decrease [3H][D-Ala2,D-Leu5]enkephalin binding to the delta cx and delta ncx binding sites. Pretreatment of membranes with DALCE in vitro greatly reduced the Bmax of the delta ncx binding site, without significantly altering the Bmax of the delta cx binding site. These findings suggest that when administered in vivo, DALCE fails to distribute uniformly throughout the brain, and that it therefore binds covalently to opioid receptors mostly in the periventricular regions. Viewed collectively, these data support the hypothesis that DALCE acts as a selective delta ncx antagonist, and that the delta ncx binding site, which is sensitive to DALCE, is most likely synonymous with the recently described delta 1 receptor.
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