PMID: 7932161Sep 1, 1994Paper

A mechanism of action for morphine-induced immunosuppression: corticosterone mediates morphine-induced suppression of natural killer cell activity

The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
D O Freier, B A Fuchs

Abstract

Morphine is a drug of abuse with an ability to down-regulate immune responsiveness that could have potentially serious consequences in both heroin addicts and in the clinical environment. The exact mechanism of action by which morphine induces immunosuppression has yet to be clearly determined. A direct mechanism of action is suggested to operate through lymphocyte opiate receptors, but the nature of such receptors is still in question. The alternative, an indirect mechanism of action is proposed to be mediated by two possible pathways, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation with increased production of adrenal corticosteroids, or activation of the sympathetic nervous system and concomitant catecholamine release. Natural killer (NK) cell activity was used to determine potential indirect mechanisms of action for morphine. NK activity in the B6C3F1 mouse was suppressed between 12 and 48 hr after implantation of 75 mg timed-release morphine pellets. Morphine suppressed NK activity in a dose-responsive manner. The opiate antagonists naloxone and naltrexone completely blocked morphine-induced suppression of NK activity, whereas naloxone methiodide, a congener that crosses the blood-brain barrier much more slowly than naloxon...Continue Reading

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