Opioid peptides and their G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are important regulators within the cardiovascular system, implicated
in modulation of electrophysiological function, heart rate, myocardial inotropy, vascular function, and cellular stress resistance.
The opioid system is also involved in cardiovascular development, adaptation to injury and effects of advanced age. The significant roles
of opioids are emphasized by the observation that the heart produces prodynorphin and proenkephalin, which are enzymatically processed
from small to large active polypeptides. Indeed, depending on species, cardiac preproenkephalin mRNA levels are comparable to
or higher than those found in the central nervous system. This review highlights and discusses current knowledge and recent findings regarding
physiological and pathophysiological modulation of the heart and vessels by the opioid receptor system.
Keywords: Opioid peptide, opioid receptor, cardiovascular system, cytoprotection, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), electrophysiological function, heart rate, myocardial inotropy, vascular function, cellular stress resistance.
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