Research in the Traynor laboratory is centered on the pharmacology of opioid drugs, including legal drugs such as morphine and illicit drugs such as heroin. Drugs like morphine and closely related analogs, for example oxycodone, are clinically used for the management of moderate to severe pain due to their action at mu-opioid receptors expressed on pain pathway neurons in the central nervous system (CNS). However, mu-opioid receptors are widely expressed throughout the CNS and in other areas of the body. Consequently, these pain relieving drugs have a myriad of on-target side-effects including respiratory depression and constipation. These issues leave many patients unsatisfied with their pain management. Moreover, long term use of the drugs leads to the development of tolerance and dependence. In addition, opioid drugs have rewarding effects and thus strong abuse liability that contributes to the misuse of prescription opioids and the use of heroin and related street drugs.

The mu-opioid receptor is a member of the opioid receptor family that comprises 4 members, the mu-, delta-, kappa- and nociception-receptors. All are related by structural homology and are members of the 7-transmembrane G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) superfamily activating intracellular G proteins of the Galphai/o families. The focus of research in the Traynor laboratory is to gain a basic understanding of how mu-opioid receptors work, how they are changed by chronic drug exposure and how we might more successfully target these receptors, and other proteins in the cell that are essential for the control of receptor activity, for the improved management of pain and/or the development of medications to treat opioid and other substance abuse.

Contact Information: Dr. John Traynor | Email: jtraynor@umich.edu | Phone: 734.647.7479 | Fax: 734.763.4450