Molecular Neuropsychopharmacology

The endogenous opioid systems include opioid receptors and their endogenous ligands - opioid peptides dynorphins, enkephalins, and endorphins. These systems are critical for regulation of pain processing, modulation of reward induced by intake of addictive substances and stress-induced behavioral responses. Expression of the opioid genes is altered in the brain of drug abusers and psychiatric patients, and allelic variations in promoters of these genes are associated with cocaine abuse, epilepsy and affective disorders. Our general aim is to characterize the opioid systems at the molecular and cellular levels and to elucidate the role of molecular changes in these systems in addictive, pain, and psychiatric disorders. The focus is on the regulation of the prodynorphin gene transcription by epigenetic mechanisms including DNA methylation and chromatin modifications.

Principal investigator: Georgy Bakalkin