CATH.a cells are a catecholaminergic cell line of neuronal origin. The opioid receptor complement expressed by CATH.a cells was defined pharmacologically and by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT- PCR). CATH.a cells were found to express mRNA encoding all three of the major subtypes of opioid receptors. The relative abundance of CATH.a cell opioid receptor transcripts was δ > κ > μ. Pharmacological and functional data were in agreement with the results of RT-PCR inasmuch as δ-opioid receptor was identified as the most abundant opioid receptor subtype expressed by CATH.a cells. In addition, at least one of the opioid signalling pathways, inhibition of adenylyl cyclase activity, was found to be operant in this cell line. CATH.a cells should be of general utility for the study of opioid receptor signalling mechanisms in the context of catecholaminergic neurons.
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