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Opioid Receptors and Protonation-Coupled Binding of Opioid Drugs

Opioid receptors are G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) part of cell signaling paths of direct interest to treat pain. Pain may associate with inflamed tissue characterized by acidic pH. The potentially low pH at tissue targeted by opioid drugs in pain management could impact drug binding to the opioid receptor, because opioid drugs typically have a protonated amino group that contributes to receptor binding, and the functioning of GPCRs may involve protonation change. In this review, we discuss the relationship between structure, function, and dynamics of opioid receptors from the perspective of the usefulness of computational studies to evaluate protonation-coupled opioid-receptor interactions.

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