Pharmacological characterization of buprenorphine, a mixed agonist-antagonist with κ3 analgesia

Chaim G. Pick*, Yakov Peter, Shaul Schreiber, Ronit Weizman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Buprenorphine is a mixed opioid agonist/antagonist analgesic. This study was designed to determine the role of opioid receptor subtypes, especially κ3 in buprenorphine-induced analgesia in mice. Buprenorphine, when injected systemically, revealed a potent analgesic effect by tailflick assay, with a biphasic dose-response curve, which was reversed by naloxone. The presence of analgesic cross-tolerance between buprenorphine and naloxone benzoylhydrazone (NalBzoH) and morphine indicated a role for κ3 and μ receptor subtype in buprenorphine analgesia. Additional studies with selective opioid antagonists indicated κ1 mechanisms of action. We did not detect any involvement of the 5 receptor subtype. Low doses of buprenorphine antagonized morphine analgesia, while high doses of buprenorphine coadministered with morphine elicited increasing analgesia in a dose-dependent manner. These findings suggest that buprenorphine elicits analgesia through an interaction with κ3 receptors and to a lesser extent with κ1 as well as its activity as partial μ receptor agonist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-46
Number of pages6
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 1997


  • analgesia
  • buprenorphine
  • naloxone benzoylhydrazone
  • opiate receptor (mixed agonist/antagonist)


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