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β-endorphin is expressed in Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) cells in the arcuate nucleus and in a small population of neurons in the brainstem, and acts through μ-opioid receptors. β-endorphin has many effects, including on sexual behavior and appetite. β-endorphin is also secreted into the circulation from pituitary corticotropes and melanotropes. α-neoendorphin is also expressed in POMC cells in the arcuate nucleus.
[met]-enkephalin is widely distributed in the CNS; [met]-enkephalin is a product of the proenkephalin gene, and acts through μ and δ-opioid receptors. [leu]-enkephalin, also a product of the proenkephalin gene, acts through δ-opioid receptors.
Dynorphin acts through κ-opioid receptors, and is widely distributed in the CNS, including in the spinal cord and hypothalamus, including in particular the arcuate nucleus and in both oxytocin and vasopressin neurons in the supraoptic nucleus.
Endomorphin acts through μ-opioid receptors, and is more potent than other endogenous opioids at these receptors.
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