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Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Personnel - Richard M. Van Rijn

Richard M. Van Rijn, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
Phone: 765-494-6461
Lab webpage:

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Picture of Richard M. Van Rijn
Specialization: Neuropharmacology and drug discovery


B.S./M.S. (2002): Bio-pharmaceutical Sciences - Leiden University
Ph.D. (2007): Molecular Pharmacology - VU University Amsterdam
Postdoc. (2007-2013): Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center Department of Neurology - University of California San Francisco

Research: Neuropharmacology and drug discovery

In my laboratory we use innovative strategies and techniques to provide a better understanding of the molecular mechanism by which G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) function, propagate signal transduction and modulate behavior. GPCRs form the largest protein family in the human genome and are crucial in relaying extracellular information into the cell. GPCRs are involved in many diverse physiological responses, including light perception, taste, immune responses, cardiovascular activity and neurotransmission. Currently, 30-40% of all drugs, approved by the Federal Drug Administration, target GPCRs. New insights into how these receptors work have re-energized the study of these receptors. Specifically, we study biased receptor signaling and GPCR heteromerization and potential overlap of these concepts and their roles in (patho)-physiological responses. We frequently use the delta opioid receptor as model receptor for our studies. We use a combination of in vitro cell culture assays, with in vivo mouse behavioral paradigms and ex vivo assays to perform translational/pre-clinical research with the goal of proposing and developing new therapeutic drugs that may have better potency, efficacy and fewer side effects. Our main focus is on neurological disorders, with an emphasis on drug addiction and co-morbid mood and anxiety disorders as well as chronic pain conditions. Current projects involve investigations into the risk of the alcohol mixed energy drinks, the role of beta-arrestin dependent signaling in depression and anxiety disorders, the physiological function of opioid-dopamine interactions and alcohol withdrawal induced hyperalgesia.

Van Rijn Lab 2016
The Van Rijn lab: Ricardo Gomez, Terrance Chiang, Richard van Rijn, Rob Cassell, Meridith Robins, Shiqi Tang, Mee Jung Ko, Doungkamol "Nook" Alongkronrusmee.

Lab Members:

Doungkamol (Nook) Alongkronrusmee (Graduate Student)
Jennifer N. Berry (Post-Doctoral Research Associate)
Robert J. Cassell (Graduate Student)
Terrance C. Chiang (Laboratory Manager)
Eric Daniel Eisenmann (Visiting Scholar)
Mee Jung Ko (PULSe Graduate Student)
Meridith Tracy Robins (Graduate Student)


MCMP544: Drug classes and mechanisms

PHRM845: Integrated Pharmacotherapy III

PHRM316: Drug abuse/addiction education

IUSM610: Pharmacology


Ongoing Research Support

R00AA020539                                                                09/05/13 – 08/31/16

Development of a preclinical candidate for the treatment of alcoholism                                           

The primary objective of this grant is to validate a DOR-subtype as a new target for intervention in alcohol abuse and determine the properties of the most ideal DOR-subtype selective drug to develop it as a preclinical lead.

Role: PI

Ralph W. and Grace M. Showalter Research Trust 07/01/14-06/30/15

New mechanism for modulating opioid receptor mediated analgesia

The primary objective of this grant is to investigate the delta-mu heteromer interface and ways to manipulate the formation of these heteromers to study its function in pain disorders.

Role: PI

Completed Research Support

1K99AA020539                                                                08/01/11 – 08/31/13

Development of a preclinical candidate for the treatment of alcoholism                                           

The primary objective of this grant is to validate a DOR-subtype as a new target for intervention in alcohol abuse and determine the properties of the most ideal DOR-subtype selective drug to develop it as a preclinical lead.

Role: PI

Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation (ABMRF)                         01/01/11 – 12/31/12

Identification of delta opioid receptor subtypes as novel targets to treat alcoholism

The major goal of this project is to determine whether targeting selective delta opioid receptor subtypes can simultaneously treat anxiety and prevent alcohol abuse.

Role: PI

Representative Publications

  1. Chiang T, Sansuk K, Van Rijn RM, Beta-arrestin 2 dependence of delta opioid receptor agonists is correlated with alcohol intake. Br. J. Pharmacol., 2016, 173(2), 332-343
  2. Van Rijn RM, DeFriel JN, Whistler JL, Pharmacological traits of delta opioid receptors: pitfalls or opportunities, Psychopharmacol, 2013, 228 (1), 1-18
  3. Milan-Lobo L, Enquist JE, Van Rijn RM, Whistler JL, anti-analgesic effect of the mu/delta opioid receptor-heteromer revealed by ligand-biased antagonism, 2013, Plos One, 8(3): e58362, PMC3598907
  4. Harvey JH, Van Rijn RM, Whistler JL, High-throughput screening of GPCR heteromer-specific ligands using a FLIPR calcium mobilization assay, 2013, Humana Press, Springer, Methods Mol Biol, 995, Chemical Neurobiology: 43-54
  5. Van Rijn RM, Harvey JH, Brissett DI, DeFriel JN, Whistler JL, Novel screening assay for the selective detection of G protein-coupled receptor heteromer signaling, J Pharmacol Exp Ther, 334(1):179-188, Highlighted paper
  6. Van Rijn RM, Brissett DI, Whistler JL, Distinctive modulation of ethanol place preference by delta opioid receptor selective agonists, 2012, Drug Alcohol Depend, 2012, 122(1-2):156- PMC3279630
  7. Brissett DI, Whistler JL, Van Rijn RM, Contribution of mu and delta opioid receptors to the pharmacological profile of kappa opioid receptor subtypes, Eur. J Pain, 2012, 16 (3): 327-337
  8. Van Rijn RM, Brissett DI, Whistler JL, Emergence of functional spinal delta-mu opioid receptors heteromers after chronic ethanol exposure, Biol Psychiatry, 2012, 71:232-238
  9. Van Rijn RM, Brissett DI, Whistler JL, Dual efficacy of delta opioid selective ligands for ethanol drinking and anxiety, J Pharmacol Exp Ther, 2010, 335 (1):133-139, PMC2957775
  10. Van Rijn RM, Whistler JL, Waldhoer M, Opioid receptor heteromer-specific trafficking and pharmacology, Curr Opin Pharmacol, 2010, 10:73-79, PMC2900797
  11. Van Rijn RM, Whistler JL. The delta-1 opioid receptor is a heterodimer that opposes the actions of the delta-2 receptor on alcohol intake, Biol. Psychiatry, 2009, 66:777-784, PMC2757485
  12. Van Rijn RM, Whistler JL, The only way is up: preventing opioid tolerance by promoting cell surface expression of MOR-DOR heterodimers? Mol. Interv, 2008, 8 (6): 277-280
  13. Van Rijn RM, van Marle A, Chazot PL, Langemijer E, Qin Y, Shenton FC, Lim HD, Zuiderveld OP, Sansuk K, Dy M, Smit MJ, Tensen CP, Bakker RA, Leurs R, Cloning and characterization of dominant negative splice variants of the human histamine H4 receptor, Biochem J, 2008, 414 (1):121-131
  14. Van Rijn RM, Chazot PL, Shenton FC, Sansuk K, Bakker RA, Leurs R, Oligomerization of recombinant and endogenously expressed human histamine H4 receptors, Mol. Pharm. 2006, 70(2):604-15
  15. Bakker RA, Lozada AF, van Marle A, Shenton FC, Drutel G, Karlstedt K, Hoffmann M, Lintunen M, Yamamoto Y, van Rijn RM, Chazot PL, Panula P, Leurs R, Discovery of naturally occurring splice variants of the rat histamine H3 receptor that act as dominant negatives, Mol. Pharm, 2006, 69(4):1194-206.
  16. Lim, HD1 and Van Rijn RM1, Ling P, Bakker RA, Thurmond RL, Leurs R., Evaluation of histamine H1-, H2-, and H3-receptor ligands at the human histamine H4 receptor: identification of 4-methylhistamine as the first potent and selective H4 receptor agonist. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2005, 4(3):1310-21.

This record was last updated on Feb 22, 2016 at 3:44 PM
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