Kappa-opioid receptor-mediated effects of the plant-derived hallucinogen, salvinorin A, on inverted screen performance in the mouse

William E. Fantegrossi, Kelly M. Kugle, Leander J. Valdes, Masato Koreeda, James H. Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Salvinorin A is a pharmacologically active diterpene that occurs naturally in the Mexican mint Ska Maria Pastora (Salvia divinorum) and represents the first naturally occurring κ-opioid receptor agonist. The chemical structure of salvinorin A is novel among the opioids, and thus defines a new structural class of κ-opioid-receptor selective drugs. Few studies have examined the effects of salvinorin A in vivo, and fewer still have attempted to assess the agonist actions of this compound at μ-opioid, δ-opioid, and κ-opioid receptors using selective antagonists. In the mouse, salvinorin A disrupted climbing behavior on an inverted screen task, indicating a rapid, but short-lived induction of sedation/motor incoordination. Similar effects were observed with the μ-agonist remifentanil and the synthetic κ-agonist U69,593. When behaviorally equivalent doses of all three opioids were challenged with antagonists at doses selective for μ-opioid, δ-opioid, or κ-opioid receptors, results suggested that the motoric effects of remifentanil were mediated by μ-receptors, whereas those of salvinorin A and U69,593 were mediated via κ-receptors. Despite similar potencies and degrees of effectiveness, salvinorin A and U69,593 differed with regard to their susceptibility to antagonism by the κ-antagonist nor-binaltorphamine. This later finding, coupled with the novel chemical structure of the compound, is consistent with recent findings that the diterpene salvinorin A may bind to the κ-receptor in a manner that is qualitatively different from that of more traditional κ-agonists such as the benzeneacetamide U69,593. Such pharmacological differences among these κ-opioids raise the possibility that the development of other diterpene-based opioids may yield important therapeutic compounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)627-633
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural pharmacology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Hallucinogens
  • Inverted screen test
  • Mouse
  • Opioid receptors
  • Salvinorin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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