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J Leukoc Biol. 2000 Nov;68(5):723-8.

Morphine enhances interleukin-12 and the production of other pro-inflammatory cytokines in mouse peritoneal macrophages.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140, USA.


In this study we investigated the capacity of morphine to modulate expression of cytokines in peritoneal macrophages. Mice were implanted subcutaneously with a 75-mg morphine slow-release pellet, and 48 h later resident peritoneal macrophages were harvested. Control groups received placebo pellets, naltrexone pellets, or morphine plus naltrexone pellets. Adherent cells were stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS: 10 microg/mL) plus interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma: 100 units/mL) to induce cytokine production. After 24 h RNA was extracted for analysis of cytokine mRNA levels by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, or supernatants were collected after 48 h for determination of cytokine production by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Morphine enhanced mRNA expression of interleukin (IL)-12 p40 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) compared with controls, whereas IL-10 levels were unchanged by drug treatment. ELISA data showed that both IL-12 p40 and p70 were increased by morphine. The enhancement of IL-12 at both the mRNA and protein levels was antagonized by naltrexone, indicating that the modulation of this cytokine by morphine is via a classic opioid receptor. These results are particularly interesting in light of our previous observation that 48 h after morphine pellet implantation, the peritoneal cavity is colonized with gram-negative and other enteric bacteria. The enhancement of IL-12 by morphine might be related to morphine-induced sepsis.

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