Marked decrease of immunolabelled 68 kDa neurofilament (NF-L) proteins in brains of opiate addicts

J A García-SevillaJ Guimón


NEUROFILAMENT (NF) proteins, the major components of the neuronal cytoskeleton, have been shown to represent previously unknown targets for the chronic effects of morphine in rats. This study was designed to evaluate the abundance of immunoreactive NF-L (68 kDa) proteins in post-mortem brains of chronic opiate addicts who had died of a heroin or methadone overdose. Levels of NF-L proteins were assessed by immunoblotting techniques. Levels of immunoreactive NF-L proteins were markedly decreased (47%, n = 17) in the frontal cortex. The reduced abundance of brain NF-L proteins was not related to the post-mortem delay or to the plasma concentrations of opiates, suggesting that the observed changes represent a specific long-term effect of opiate drugs. Because of the functions associated with NF proteins (e.g. axonal transport), this finding suggests that opiate drugs may induce neuronal damage after chronic abuse in humans.


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